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WASHINGTON, D. C. -- Concerned about this year's early arrival of the flu virus, the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC), a preeminent organization representing some 10,000 infection control professionals, has issued some tips for staving off illness during the coming months. With outbreaks already being reported in regions of the U.S., consumers are advised to take early and appropriate preventative action in order to protect themselves and their family members against the flu.
"Influenza is a potentially lethal disease, and predictions are that this may be another nasty flu season," says APIC president Barbara Soule. "Infection control professionals across the country are applying their collective expertise and experience to help people stay well during flu season."
Influenza strikes between 10-20 percent of Americans yearly. Though its symptoms are often confused with the common cold, influenza is a far more dangerous disease, infecting at least 120 million people worldwide and killing some 20,000 Americans each year, including seniors, children, and individuals with weakened immune systems.
Flu is easily spread through coughing, sneezing and simple hand contact. The hands are precisely where APIC begins its six-point "Flu-Fighter's Checklist."
"Washing the hands is the single most important thing an unvaccinated person can do to avoid getting the flu," says Dr. Elaine Larson, professor of pharmaceutical and therapeutic research at the Columbia School of Nursing in New York City, and an expert in infection control. "If you make a habit of hand washing during flu season, you're affording yourself the simplest protection money can buy."
Other flu-fighting techniques include common sense notions such as getting adequate rest and a balanced diet.
"Everyone should consider getting a flu shot, particularly the elderly, patients in long-term care settings, healthcare workers and those who have other diseases or illnesses that could be aggravated by the flu," says Soule. "It's important to remember that it takes about two weeks for the vaccine to become effective. With the flu season upon us, we're recommending you schedule a visit to your local flu clinic or physician's office as soon as possible. Until the vaccine kicks in, following these simple rules will definitely increase Americans' chances of remaining healthy and uninfected."
Visit www.apic.org/news/flubulletin.cfm to obtain important information on flu prevention, including the following fact sheets: A Flu Fighter's Checklist; Classic Flu Myths; and Flu vs. Cold: Detecting the Difference. The APIC site also offers flu resources provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).