Fighting the Flu
Shepherd Center’s infection control coordinator provides tips for staying healthy during flu season.
You have probably heard a lot about the flu recently on the news. You may have even been one of many people infected with it.
Influenza, or the flu, is a virus spread by coughing and sneezing or by coming into contact with something a person with the flu has contaminated. A person who is infected may spread the flu to others for up to 36 hours before he/she even has symptoms, and up to 7 days after becoming sick.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), flu season typically begins in October and peaks between December and February, although activity can last as late as May. This flu season alone, the CDC estimates that approximately between 87,000-150,000 hospitalizations and 4,800-12,000 deaths have occurred due to the flu in the United States.
Sarah Culberson, RN, CIC, infection control coordinator at Shepherd Center, oversees the hospital’s infection prevention and control efforts. Here are her tips for staying healthy during flu season:
- Get a flu shot. Even if you still get the flu, the flu shot can decrease the severity and duration of symptoms.
- Stay home from work or school and avoid visiting public, crowded spaces if you are sick to decrease the likelihood of spreading the virus.
- Be courteous of those around you who might have weakened immune systems, including young children, the elderly or those with chronic health issues. For example, people with certain medical conditions, including spinal cord injury, brain injury, and multiple sclerosis, are at risk of serious complications from the flu. If you are sick, avoid visiting friends and family who might be in the hospital until you are symptom-free.
- Wash your hands or use alcohol sanitizer frequently throughout the day. It can help prevent infection.
- Avoid touching your face. Viruses can enter your body through your mouth, nose or even your eyes. You may not realize how often you touch your face, but being more aware can decrease your chances of getting sick.
- Cover your mouth or nose when you cough or sneeze with a handkerchief, tissue or your sleeve.
- Clean and disinfect surfaces around you that may be contaminated.
If you would like to learn more, visit Cdc.gov/flu for more information.
Interview by Damjana Alverson
Shepherd Center, located in Atlanta, Georgia, is a private, not-for-profit hospital specializing in medical treatment, research and rehabilitation for people with spinal cord injury, brain injury, multiple sclerosis, spine and chronic pain, and other neuromuscular conditions. Founded in 1975, Shepherd Center is ranked by U.S. News & World Report among the top 10 rehabilitation hospitals in the nation. In its more than four decades, Shepherd Center has grown from a six-bed rehabilitation unit to a world-renowned, 152-bed hospital that treats more than 740 inpatients, nearly 280 day program patients and more than 7,100 outpatients each year in more than 46,000 visits.