This year's flu season is already the most widespread on record since health officials began keeping track 13 years ago, and has already caused the deaths of more children than what normally would be expected at this time of the year, federal health officials have said.
During the second week of January, more people sought care for flulike illnesses than at any comparable period in nearly a decade, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's most recent weekly report shows. Ten children died in the week ending Jan. 13, bringing the total number of pediatric deaths this flu season to 30. More than 8,900 people have been hospitalized with laboratory-confirmed influenza since the season started Oct. 1. The flu activity indicators are notable for the sheer volume and intensity of flu that is taking place in most of the country at the same time.
What can I do to avoid getting sick?
The single most important thing to do is prevent the spread of germs. Wash your hands frequently, soap up between your fingers and don't forget your thumbs, and scrub for about 20 seconds.
Some other good tips, as reported by my Washington Post colleague Jura Koncius:
Once a household member has a cold, it's best to separate their toothbrush from the rest of the pack to avoid germ contamination. After the person gets well, replace the toothbrush or toothbrush head with a new one.
Launder bedding frequently.
The best thing to do if someone is sick is to put them in a separate room to sleep, preventing the spread of germs as well as preserving your precious sleep. If this isn't possible and you must share the same bed, wash your sheets frequently in hot water. It even helps to wash just the pillowcases every few days. Bath towels should be washed every day or two.
Clean your humidifier.
Humidifiers help soothe sinuses and nasal passages, especially when you have coughing and chest congestion. But if you are using your humidifier on a daily basis to make your patient feel better, once a day you should empty the tank and then wipe it down until it's dry. Do a thorough cleaning of it at least weekly, following the directions provided for your particular model. “You don't want germs breeding in there and spewing out into the room,” Carolyn Forte, director of the Good Housekeeping Home Appliances, Cleaning Products, and Textiles Lab, told The Post.
Keep the remotes wiped off.
Flu sufferers are likely to spend long hours on the couch sniffling and feeling sorry for themselves, clicking through Netflix and HBO offerings. So all those remotes will be covered in germs. Keep a container of antibacterial wipes around so you can clean the remotes on a daily basis; clean your light switches and doorknobs with them, too. Put a small wastebasket in the TV room with a plastic liner for all the wet tissues and used wipes, and empty it once or twice a day.