Recommendations in the way of simple measures to stop spread of flu
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As schools resume, the Health Promotion Directorate has issued advice in the way of simple measures to help prevent the spread of influenza.
As is the rest of Europe, Malta is currently experiencing a high rate of flu activity. The Directorate said that 16 out of every 100 individuals visiting a family doctor are suffering from flu. As such, it is even more important to take precautionary measures.
It said that the flu is a highly contagious respiratory virus. It spreads quickly by way of droplets released when a sick person coughs, sneezes, or talks. Persons can also get the flu by exposure to saliva passed by routine contact, such as close contact, kissing or sharing eating utensils.
It can also be caught by touching something that has the flu virus on it, such as a doorknob, keyboard, or an infected person’s dirty hand, and then touching their own mouth, eyes or nose – as the flu virus can live on some surfaces for up to 24 hours.
The symptoms of flu usually appear from one to four days after exposure to the virus, and they usually last five to seven days.
The Directorate explained that some people are at increased risk for complications from influenza. These people include – the very young; people 65 or older; people with chronic illnesses, such as asthma and other respiratory conditions, heart disease, HIV, or diabetes; pregnant women.
The Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Directorate said that a person is likely to give it to others in the first five days of symptoms and recommends the following actions to help prevent the spread of influenza:
Get vaccinated – it is still not too late to get your flu vaccine as we expect the flu season to last for a couple of months. This is available free from your local health centre for everybody 6 months and over. Vaccination of high-risk persons is especially important to decrease their risk of severe flu illness and complications.
Vaccination of pregnant women is the best way to protect newborn infants, especially since the vaccine can only be given after the age of six months.
Vaccination of healthcare workers against influenza, especially frontline workers caring for the most vulnerable, should decrease their risk of infecting their patients and themselves at a time when the burden of work on the healthcare system is highest.
Do not go to work if you have flu-like symptoms – Do not visit relatives or friends in hospital or institutions if you have flu-like symptoms. Limit visits to people who are sick to only when it is essential for their care.
As schools resume today, do not send your children to school if they have flu-like symptoms – Your child should stay home to rest and to avoid spreading the flu to other children and school staff. It is recommended that your child should stay home for a further 24 hours after the fever has subsided, without the use of a fever-reducing medicine. A fever is defined as 37.8°C (100°F) or higher.
Social distancing – While sick limit contact with others as much as possible to avoid infecting them.
Wash your hands – regularly with soap and warm water or with an alcohol-based rub.
Cover your nose and mouth – with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. It will help prevent those around you from getting sick. Dispose of used tissues immediately. If you do not have a tissue cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve or elbow to avoid dispersal of viruses.
Avoid touching your eyes nose or mouth.
Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces – such as keyboards, telephones and door handles. People who have a sick family member at home but are not sick themselves can go to work as usual. Wash your hands often with soap and warm water to prevent getting the flu from a sick family member.
The Directorate went on to say that it is advisable for people suffering from influenza to seek advice from their family doctor, especially if symptoms do not improve after seven days in young children, people aged 65 or over, pregnant women, people with chronic medical conditions – like diabetes or a heart, lung, kidney or neurological disease – and people with a weakened immune system due to chemotherapy or HIV.
Antibiotics are not recommended for the flu, the Directorate said, as this is caused by viruses, and will only be required for superimposed bacterial infections as prescribed by doctors. The family doctor will then assess the patient and refer them for further secondary care as required.
Avoid going to the casualty unit unless there are emergency symptoms such as sudden chest pain, difficulty in breathing, and coughing up blood.
The Directorate concluded by saying that, “during flu season, be prepared in case you get sick and need to stay home for a few days. Keep some over-the-counter medicines, alcohol-based hand rubs, tissues, and anything else you need so that you do not have to go out while you are sick.”