How to Protect Yourself and Your Family from the Flu

February 8, 2018

Chanda Newsome, RN

With one of the worst flu seasons we’ve had in many years looming over us, Wilson Medical Center is dedicated to helping our patients, staff, and community remain healthy. After all, our mission is Making Communities Healthier!    

Last week the hospital performed 370 flu tests. This is 17 percent higher than last year’s peak flu week at the hospital. Although the majority of flu patients that we see are outpatients, hospital admissions from the flu and complications of the flu continue to increase.

In order to protect yourself and your family from the flu, you need to know how the flu is spread and how to protect yourself. The flu is spread by droplets of respiratory secretions that are exhaled when we breathe or expelled when we sneeze or cough. Normal respiratory secretions from exhaling travel about three feet while secretions from sneezing and coughing can travel six to seven feet in the air.  The flu germs contained in respiratory secretions can also live for a period of time on inanimate objects such as tables, phones, door handles, etc. The flu is spread when we either inhale respiratory secretions from someone with the flu or we touch a contaminated object and then touch our face (eyes, nose, or mouth) with our contaminated hands. Once you have contracted the flu, symptoms generally begin in one to four days.  

Protecting yourself and your loved ones from the spread of the flu is of the utmost importance. The most important measure you can take to prevent the flu is to get the flu shot. Other important preventative measures include:

  • Washing your hands regularly with soap and water for 20 seconds, or use a hand sanitizer that is at least 60 percent alcohol-based
  • Avoiding touching your eyes, nose and mouth
  • Avoiding sharing food, cups or eating utensils
  • Disinfecting your home and belongings, such as door knobs, light switches, children’s toys and play areas
  • Covering your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing with a tissue, your sleeve or elbow, and NOT your bare hands
  • Staying home from school or work if you are sick to prevent the spread of germs; according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), most healthy adults may be able to infect other people beginning one day prior to flu symptoms starting and up to seven days after becoming sick, with children able to spread the flu for even longer. 

Wilson Medical Center has also implemented additional measures to decrease the spread of the flu.  

  • Visitor restrictions for those experiencing respiratory symptoms and for all visitors under the age of 12
  • Patients entering the hospital with flu or respiratory symptoms will be given a mask to wear at all times when they are not in a private room
  • Providing masks to all visitors and patients experiencing flu-like symptoms.  
    • Respiratory hygiene stations are set up at all entrances to the hospital stocked with face masks, tissues and alcohol-based hand sanitizers for anyone entering the hospital 

If you or a loved one begins to notice symptoms including coughing, sore throat, fever or upper respiratory symptoms, please see your doctor right away. Early detection is especially important for young children, elderly populations, pregnant women and people with chronic health issues. When detected early, prescription antiviral drugs can often help treat the illness and shorten the time you are sick by one or two days.

During flu season and year-round, Wilson Medical Center is here to help with your healthcare needs. If you need a primary care provider, call our Physician Referral Line at 800.424.DOCS (3627) to get you connected to one today.

For additional information about influenza, visit www.cdc.org/flu.

Chanda Newsome, RN, is the Infection Prevention & Control Coordinator at Wilson Medical Center.