By Stephanie Andre
RISMEDIA, September 17, 2010--The flu season is just around the corner, and just like the approaching fall weather, the illness itself can be very unpredictable.
Seasonal influenza, or the flu, is an extremely contagious respiratory infection and often includes symptoms like high fever, cough, and full body aches. Flu symptoms are more severe than those of colds and can cause medical complications that result in an average of 36,000 deaths each year.
To that end, here are some easy steps each person can take to protect against the flu:
Monitor flu outbreaks in your community - Google Flu Trends and the CDC offer weekly updates on areas that show increased cases of influenza.
Encourage frequent hand washing - flu viruses can live on surfaces for up to 48 hours, so frequent hand washing can help to protect against the influenza viruses, and can protect people from other germs that can cause further complications.
Cover coughs and sneezes - the flu virus is most easily spread from one person to another through inhaling respiratory droplets expelled by ill persons. Covering coughs and sneezes traps the germs, and keeps the spread of germs to a minimum.
Get a flu vaccine - this year's flu vaccines have already been released, are completely new formulations for this year's strains, and include the H1N1 vaccine as well as seasonal influenza in one easy dose.
Seek medical attention for those who display flu-like symptoms - individuals who begin feeling ill, have a high fever, and complain of fatigue should have a medical evaluation.