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Take the Seasonal Flu Challenge: Prevent Flu

Contributed by Troy Knighton, MEd, EdS, LPC
National Seasonal Flu and Infection Don't Pass It On Program Manager

Man sneezing into tissue

As fall and winter approach, flu season is upon us too. Influenza (flu) presents health challenges not only to us as individuals, but to our VA and hometown communities. Flu is a respiratory illness that spreads easily. It is caused by viruses that can change from year to year. Each year in the U.S., flu causes more than 226,000 hospitalizations and about 36,000 deaths. Even though most of these cases are among people age 65 and older, anyone can get the flu. This is why it is important for all of us to take the flu challenge and help to stop the spread of flu!

Challenge 1 - Get your flu shot

People who are 6 months and older should get the flu vaccine (flu shot or nasal spray). This year the vaccine will protect you from the "2009 H1N1 Pandemic Flu," as well as two other strains of "regular" flu, so adults will need only one flu shot. Almost all people who get the flu shot have no serious problems from it. Remember, the best way to stop the flu is to get the vaccine each year.

Challenge 2 - Know how flu is spread

When a person with the flu sneezes, coughs, talks, or laughs, the flu virus can spread into the air as droplets from the mouth or nose. These droplets can spread to people and surfaces within 3 to 6 feet. The flu virus can spread to your hands if you touch anything that has the virus on it. If you then touch your eyes, nose, or mouth, you can get the flu. Remember, people may be able to spread the flu virus to others 1 day before they feel sick and up to 5 days after getting sick.

Challenge 3 - Know the symptoms of flu

Woman looking at thermometer

Symptoms of flu include a fever (usually high), muscle aches and pains, headache, feeling tired and weak, chest discomfort, and coughing. People with flu may also have a stuffy nose and sore throat. Remember, illness can start 1 to 4 days after you get the flu virus.

Challenge 4 - Keep your hands and surfaces around you clean

Clean hands often by washing with soap and water or by using alcohol-based hand rubs. Clean hands before eating or fixing food, before caring for someone who is sick, before touching your face, mouth or eyes. Clean your hands after using the bathroom, after caring for someone who is sick, and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing. Keep surfaces clean that are touched often such as phones, light switches, countertops, door and cabinet knobs, keyboards and mouse, and TV remotes. Remember, the flu virus can live on surfaces for 24 to 48 hours.

Challenge 5 - Cover your coughs and sneezes

Use tissues to stop germ "droplets" that spread from coughs and sneezes. If tissues are not available, raise your arm and cover your face with your upper sleeve. Remember to dispose of tissues in waste baskets and to clean your hands afterwards.

Challenge 6 - Stay home when sick

Because flu spreads easily from person to person, stay home when you are sick. School and work are well-known places that people get the flu. Remember, treat the flu by getting plenty of rest, drinking fluids, and using medicines that reduce fevers.

You can reduce the spread of flu this year. Protect yourself, your family, and your hometown and VA community from the flu. For more information and resources, visit Office of Public Health and Environmental Hazards. Take the seasonal flu challenge-prevent flu!

Active Learning

Influenza (MedlinePlus)


Vaccination for Seasonal Flu (.wmv format / 3.98Mb) - If you are not living in a bubble, you may want to view this short clip on flu vaccination. You will learn how to protect yourself, family and friends.

How Flu is Spread (.wmv format / 5.04Mb) - View this clip to see how flu spreads and what you can do to reduce your contact with these viruses.

Fighting Germs with Clean Hands (.wmv format / 4.88Mb) - Madam Sylvia helps you learn the correct way to clean your hands.

Respiratory Etiquette (.wmv format / 3.50Mb) - Germs and viruses are all around us, in the air and on surfaces we touch. This clip shows you how to prevent their spread and stay healthier.

Read More

What is Healthy Living? - Practicing healthy living generally makes people feel good and have more energy than people who do not practice healthy habits. 

Getting Immunized - Being immunized is one way to stay healthy. Immunizations (also known as vaccines) prevent disease and save lives.

Updated October 1, 2010