It's flu season: 4 easy steps to not becoming a statistic

Wintry weather has spread across much of the nation and with the frigid air, sickness has rolled in as well. What time of year is it? ‘Tis flu season. And that means many of our family members, classmates and co-workers are getting sick.

The  Centers for Disease Control & Prevention says the number of flu cases has doubled this year, even as more than 148 million doses of the vaccine have been distributed, according to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention. If you've gotten the shot, it generally will take about two weeks to kick in.

Once injected with the vaccine, your body’s immune system will be stimulated to produce antibodies, which are what attacks the virus in your system. Later, if you come into contact with the flu virus, your immune system should detect it and fight it with the antibodies.

Many people don’t like getting the vaccine because it’s not 100% effective. Yes, you can still get the flu, mainly because there are different viruses out there and the vaccine is developed based on the most prevalent strain that particular season.

4 practical steps you can take to prevent the flu

The CDC says that flu activity has been reported in 49 states, with three of them — Louisiana, Mississippi, and South Carolina — registering widespread illness. With so much sickness going on, you may be wondering if there is anything you can do to stem the tide of influenza.

Here are some practical steps you can take to keep the flu at bay:

Get the flu vaccine

Many people choose not to get the  shot because it makes a small percentage of vaccine-takers sick. But that shouldn’t discourage you from taking a practical safeguard that can help you fight off the flu.

"Even if you're at low risk, you're young and otherwise healthy, if you get vaccinated that means there's one less person to spread the virus to others," Dr. Matthew Bressie with Pacific Medical Centers told Q13 Fox in Seattle. "So it's one of the ways as a community that we can take care of each other."

The National Health Service provides free flu shots to anyone who is over age 65, pregnant, children with underlying health problems and those with weakened immune systems. A lot of companies will also host free flu shots for their employees.

Practice good hygiene

Because of not having the best hygiene — continuously touching the nose, eyes or mouth — many people are helping spread the flu. The #1 way to protect yourself is to wash your hands regularly with warm water and soap, the NHS says on its website.

At both work and home another good practice is to always wipe down your computer keyboard and other objects you touch regularly, such as door knobs and cabinet handles. Also, disinfect objects and surfaces you touch often. This will help cut down on germs.

Also, always cover your mouth when you sneeze or cough. If you don’t, particulates of the virus can quickly spread around a room, endangering others.

Try to avoid sick people

While this may sound like a no-brainer, you'd be surprised how difficult it can be to evade flu-infected folks in November and December, the most flu-laden months. Close contact can cause you to catch a bug, then you're the one who's sick. The CDC advises people with the flu to stay home for at least 24 hours after the fever has gone away, if possible.

Get some antiviral medication

Health experts recommend taking antiviral medicines to keep yourself from getting sick. Two of the more popular products are oseltamivir (Tamiflu) or zanamivir (Relenza). Many doctors will prescribe these if there are a number of flu cases in a small community, such as a nursing home or school.

Antivirals may help reduce many of the symptoms you experience with the flu, making it a milder and shorter bout of illness. The medications come in many forms, from pills, to powders to liquids, and are generally not found over the counter.

If you haven’t gotten vaccinated, don’t fret: Health experts say the best time to get a flu shot is in the fall, so it’s not too late. To schedule one, contact your local pharmacy or medical professional.

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