Protect yourself against the cold and flu

by Senior Airman Divine Cox
8th Fighter Wing PAO

KUNSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea- -- The cold and flu season is here and will likely be around for several more weeks, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Protection.

Cold and flu viruses are spread primarily by breathing in airborne virus particles, usually from someone coughing or sneezing. Transmission may also occur by direct contact with contaminated objects like telephones or doorknobs, since the influenza virus may persist for hours--particularly in the cold and in low humidity.

"Getting vaccinated is the first step in protecting against flu viruses," said Tech. Sgt. Erin Watson, 8th Medical Group allergy and immunization specialist.

All active-duty members are required to get an annual flu vaccine. However, because flu strains vary from area to area, it is possible to become susceptible to a strain of the flu not prevented by a vaccine.

According to Watson, practicing the following healthy habits can help prevent colds and flu:

  • Wash your hands often to protect yourself from germs, especially after coughing or sneezing.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs are often spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches his or her eyes, nose or mouth.
  • Disinfect common surfaces like desktops, countertops, door handles, phones, microwaves, elevator buttons, game consoles and computer keyboards. This is especially important in dormitories - use disinfectant products to clean common areas frequently.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick. If you are sick, keep your distance.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. It may prevent those around you from getting sick.
  • Sneeze or cough into your sleeve (elbow) if you don't have a tissue - not your hands.
  • Exercise regularly, eat a balanced diet and get adequate sleep (seven to eight hours).

Watson also added, if you get a cold or the flu, you will need to do the following:

  • Stay home and away from others when you are sick. Your supervisor can put you on 24-hour quarters and you may call for an appointment at the clinic (782-2273).
  • Get plenty of rest.
  • Drink plenty of liquids (juices, water, broth, noncarbonated drinks, etc.).
  • Make sure that you eat even, if it is only lightly.
  • Avoid using alcohol and tobacco products.
  • Consider use of over-the-counter medications per package instructions to relieve the symptoms of colds and flu.

"The flu is a serious and contagious disease that can lead to hospitalization and even death," said Watson. "Please take the necessary precautions to protect yourself and others during this flu season."

For more information on influenza, visit the CDC website http://www.cdc.gov/flu/ or call the Kunsan public health office at 782-4510/4509.

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