By: Kiel Watson

It’s that time of year again; the holidays are past, its heckin’ cold out, and the ravages of a new mutated super-flu are making the rounds on the news. We don’t (yet) have to worry about the aussie flu like those in the U.K.,  but the regular variety is still making the rounds. According to the Center for Disease Control the number of cases began rising as we rang in the New Year, but fortunately there are some easy ways to lower your risk of coming down with a stomach bug this winter.

Tips to Prevent Infection

  • Vaccination- The simplest method is sometimes the most effective. Contrary to myth you won’t get the flu from a flu shot; the antibodies take some time to build up in your body and you can still get sick for a bit. The shot is fairly inexpensive even without insurance, so find that line of elderly people at the pharmacy and join them to get poked.
  • Stop Touching Sick People- This one might seem like a no-brainer, but avoid contact with anyone who is sick. In the U.K. handshakes have been banned by the church as the country deals with an outbreak of the aussie flu.
  • Wash Your Hands- With soap and water. You can use that bottle of hand sanitizer also if you must, but don’t use it by itself. Most studies have shown no significant reduction in the rate of infection whether you use it or not, and some of them might actually be bad for your immune system. And leave the vitamin C on the store shelves. Unless you have a case of scurvy, no science has shown any concrete effect of vitamin C being helpful when you’re sick.
  • Stop Touching Your Face- Those germs that get on your hands need a way to get into your body. The fast lane for access to your insides are all those openings in your head; your eyes, nose, mouth and ears. Try to avoid touching your face when you haven’t washed your hands.

Tips for the Infected

  • Stay Home- While some employers and professors may encourage you to drag yourself in regardless of how you feel, do everyone a favor and stay home. Nobody else wants what you have and the more stress you’re under the longer it will take to get better.
  • Cover your Mouth and Nose- The influenza virus is airborne so cover up when you cough and sneeze. Try not to cough into your hands too; you touch things with those. Go for the crook of your arm instead.
  • Take Care of Yourself- This one is pretty general, but it needs to be said. You need more fluids when you’re sick, and even if you don’t feel like it some food is a good thing. Avoiding stress and getting sleep  will also help on your road to recovery, so grab a bowl of soup and a blanket and get ready to be repeatedly asked, “Are you still watching?”

We’re still in the middle of flu season so it’s not too late to get the shot. Numbers from the CDC show an increase in flu cases in Michigan in the last week of the year, but they are still far below last flu season so we may see a lot more cases before the warm weather arrives.

While influenza may seem relatively non-threatening to us today, 100 years ago the Spanish Flu is estimated to have infected roughly one third of the human population with a fatality rate so high it killed 3% to 6% of the planets population. That is the equivalent of 225 to 450 million people with todays population.