Preventing spread of flu is everyone’s job
New Mexico is one of 11 states reporting widespread flu activity, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Worse, it is one of three states reported to have been hardest hit by the flu — and the peak season generally runs into February.
Santa Fe is suffering more than most. Northeastern New Mexico, including Santa Fe and Taos counties, has double the statewide rate and nearly threefold the national average of flu cases, The New Mexican’s Rebecca Moss reported last week.
Earlier is better for a flu vaccination, but there is still time for people to receive their shots. The vaccine normally is available at doctor’s offices, urgent care medical centers and even pharmacies. Often, there’s not even a copay for a shot, depending on what type of insurance a person carries.
Despite the vaccine’s availability, more than half the population in New Mexico still hasn’t received an immunization. We must do a better job of reminding residents why flu shots can protect us all. Better education will protect more people.
Here’s what people need to realize: Even for people who dislike vaccinations, receiving a shot can prevent the spread of flu to others with weaker immune systems.
The life you save could be the elderly woman standing next to you at the grocery store, the pregnant woman at the gym or the child with asthma. All these groups are at risk for complications should they contract flu.
But shots are not the only way to prevent illness in the winter. Even small children are taught to cough into their elbows rather than their hands. By doing so, they don’t cover their hands with deadly germs.
However, when you cough, still do your best to cover your mouth completely. If you do have to use hands to stop a cough or sneeze from spreading, try not touch to anything. Apply sanitizer immediately or go wash your hands (and try to avoid touching surfaces along the way to the bathroom.) Wipe down surfaces, including your keyboard, desk, phone, walls and doorknobs.
If you feel sick — symptoms of flu include fever, aches and coughing — stay home. Seeing a doctor immediately after symptoms start can help reduce the severity of illness.
Even if you are not coughing, sneezing or otherwise feeling ill, think about prevention. Again, one of the best methods of preventing the spread of germs is old-fashioned: Soap and hot water. Wash hands frequently. Lather hands with soap, rubbing them together for at least 20 seconds. (The CDC recommends humming “Happy Birthday” twice to make sure you’ve washed long enough.) Rinse hands and then dry them. Repeat, many times during the day.
Get your flu shot. Prevent the spread of germs. Get enough rest. All of this will help prevent the spread of illness. After all, we are in this together.