Flu season is here, and it’s important to do everything you can to protect yourself before you get sick. Maybe you consider yourself pretty healthy and aren’t concerned about catching the flu. But even healthy individuals can contract this extremely contagious and sometimes deadly disease.
Last year’s influenza outbreak was not only severe, but drawn out. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the 21-week season, from October – May, was the longest in 10 years. Additionally, more than 600,000 people sought treatment for the flu in emergency rooms despite the CDC advising against it. As people traveled to ERs and hospitals with chills, body aches, fever, headache and other symptoms, they put everyone who came within six feet at risk of contracting the illness.
The infection can be especially dangerous to the very young, very old and those with other chronic illnesses. Because it is so common and can be deadly to so many in our community, it’s important that everyone understand how the flu is spread and how to prevent infection.
How Does Influenza Spread?
Some viruses require intimate contact or an exchange of bodily fluids in order to spread. Others can be spread by any skin to skin contact, even something as innocent as a handshake. The flu is far easier to spread and actually requires no contact at all. In fact, a sick person can infect someone up to six feet away. And rather than only being spread through a cough or sneeze, experts believe that the flu can actually be spread by simply speaking or breathing through the mouth.
It is also possible to spread the flu via surface contact. If a sick person coughs into their hand and then touches a doorknob or other surface, those who touch that same surface after and then touch their face can become infected.
It’s important to know that receiving the flu vaccination does not ever cause an individual to get the flu. Patients may be hesitant to get this vital vaccination due to rumors of family or friends getting sick after getting a flu shot, but this is not accurate and can result in getting the flu and all of the complications unnecessarily.
How to Prevent the Spread
The absolute best way to prevent infecting others once you know you’re sick is to avoid social encounters. It’s recommended that those suffering from flu remain home for at least a week, and only venture out if necessary to obtain medical care. And if you do have to leave home, wear a medical mask to help contain the spread.
But of course, many people feel that they can’t take this advice for one reason or another. So what other steps should be taken?
Always cover your mouth and nose when you sneeze or cough. Rather than using your hand, which will likely then lead to surface contamination, cough or sneeze into the crook of an elbow. Even so, be sure to wash your hands a lot with warm soapy water and avoid touching your face as much as possible.
How Long Are the Sick Contagious?
For most healthy adults, the possibility of spreading flu germs begins a full day before getting sick. This means that we should all be careful about spreading germs, whether we feel ill or not. Additionally, adults can pass on the virus up to a full week after becoming sick, while children can pass it even longer.
It’s not uncommon for flu sufferers to return to their normal routine as soon as symptoms begin to abate, but it’s not actually a good idea. As much as you want to get back to normal, you certainly don’t want to infect your friends, relatives and coworkers. Instead, be sure to wait the full week before going back to work or socializing with friends.
Get Treatment at Home
If you’re sick and need medical treatment, but don’t want to risk infecting an entire waiting room full of people at your local clinic, what can you do? The simple solution is to get your healthcare delivered.
DispatchHealth travels so the flu doesn’t. If you’re feeling flu-like symptoms, call 1-866-FLU-CREW. Then, they’ll send a team of qualified medical professionals to your home to administer a rapid flu test, provide IV fluids, order mobile chest X-Rays, prescribe anti-nausea medication and more. And they do all of this in direct communication with the patients’ primary care physicians to ensure an integrated care experience. They see patients of all ages, from the very young to senior citizens — segments of the population often considered at the highest risk of dangerous or life-threatening flu complications.
Sounds expensive, right? Actually, DispatchHealth is partnered with most major insurance companies, including Medicare and Medicaid, and handles billing directly with those companies. In fact, a visit with DispatchHealth typically costs one-tenth of the price of a visit to the ER and patients pay an average of $5-$50 depending on their insurance plan.
In addition to flu, they can treat a wide variety of medical issues including everything from sports injuries and urinary tract infections to high blood pressure and migraines. So if you need medical care for other concerns during flu season, you can avoid sharing a waiting room with those who may be contagious.
Staying home when you’re sick should be the standard of care. So the next time you’re in need of immediate medical care, skip the emergency room or clinic, give DispatchHealth a call and get on the road to recovery quickly without ever getting on the road at all.