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Our view: Help prevent spreading flu

McHenry County and the rest of Illinois are experiencing one of the worst flu seasons in years, so it is important that everyone take precautions to help prevent themselves and others from contracting the nasty bug.

Illinois is one of 41 states with higher-than-normal levels of flu activity, according to the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Illinois hasn’t seen such widespread influenza this early in the season since 2003. During a one-week period in late December,the state recorded 31 flu-related admissions to hospital intensive care units. Three of those resulted in deaths.

Typical flu symptoms include fever, headache, extreme fatigue, dry cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, and muscle aches. Stomach symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, also can occur but are more common in children.

The flu can be easily confused with other flu- like illnesses caused by different viruses. For example, the common cold can have similar symptoms but less severe consequences.

Complications arising from the flu can range from bacterial pneumonia to sinus problems to worsening chronic medical conditions, according to the CDC.

Though it’s difficult to determine why this season has been particularly bad, some health officials are blaming it on fewer people getting the flu shot, which is the best way to prevent influenza.

Even though it’s January, the shots still are widely available. In addition to family physicians, many drugstores offer walk-in clinics. A directory of locations where the vaccine is available is online at flushot.healthmap.org.

But there is more you can do to help prevent the spread of the flu than just getting a flu shot.

Health officials recommend practicing the “3 C’s”: Clean your hands, cover your nose and mouth when you sneeze or cough, and contain your germs by staying home if you get sick.

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