Take steps to fend off the flu this winter Published Nov. 27, 2023 By Civilian Health Promotion Services WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio – Cold and flu season is here again. According to the World Health Organization, there are around a billion cases of seasonal influenza annually. Symptoms typically present within four days after infection and usually last about a week. Influenza is a highly contagious respiratory infection while common colds are usually minor infections of the nose and throat caused by more than 200 viruses, the American Lung Association reports. Some key flu symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, runny/stuffy nose, body aches, fatigue and vomiting. The single most important way to prevent the spread of infection is washing your hands, especially when visibly soiled. If unable to wash your hands, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol. Hand-washing with soap and water for about 20 seconds will remove any germs and help prevent infection. Remember to follow these five steps: Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap and apply soap. Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers and under your nails. Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice. Rinse your hands well under clean, running water. Dry your hands using a clean towel or air-dry them. Cover your mouth and avoid close contact, when possible. Avoid touching your eyes, mouth and nose as the flu can be spread through the air and enter your body through the mouth or nose from infected individuals or contaminated surfaces. Clean common spaces and supplies regularly to protect yourself and those around you. While many of us still telework, it’s important to practice these habits while at home and in person. Learn more about your employer’s safety procedures if an outbreak of flu or other illness occurs. If you begin to feel sick while at work, go home as soon as possible. The best way to protect against the flu virus is by getting vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The flu vaccine may prevent you from getting sick, reduce the severity of illness (for those who are vaccinated but still experience symptoms) and be lifesaving to individuals you encounter such as children or those who may be considered high risk. Despite the vaccine’s numerous benefits, only about half of Americans get their annual flu vaccination. As the flu virus is constantly changing, vaccines may be updated from one season to the next to protect against the most recent strain. As your protection from the vaccine declines over time, it is important to stay up to date with the most recent version. Civilian Health Promotion Services offers a wide variety of health education topics both in person and virtually such as colds and flu, nutrition, physical activity and stress management. Classes can be presented in all types of settings at your workplace, including commander/director calls, wingman day events and lunch-n-learns. For more information, visit www.USAFwellness.com or contact CHPSsupport@us.af.mil to connect with your local CHPS team.