It’s that time of year again: time to get a flu shot. Flu shots are available for Veterans enrolled in the VA health care program. It’s no joke, having the flu can be serious. Each year, hundreds of thousands of people in the U.S. are hospitalized by flu and thousands die from it. Certain people are at a higher risk, including young children, adults over 50 and people with chronic illness, such as diabetes, HIV, heart, kidney or lung disease.
The flu virus spreads easily. When a person with the flu sneezes, coughs, the flu virus can spread into the air landing on surfaces as far away as six feet. The virus can live on these surfaces up to 48 hours. If you touch your eyes, nose or mouth, you can become infected. It can take a few days for symptoms to first appear
You can help protect yourself. VA suggests taking these six steps to prevent getting and spreading the flu.
• Step 1: Get your flu shot. It’s the most effective step to protecting yourself from getting the flu. (You can also get the vaccine as a nasal spray if shots make you nervous).
• Step 2: Know how flu is spread. Remember, you may be able to spread the flu virus to others one day before you even begin to feel sick and up to five days after getting sick.
• Step 3: Know the symptoms of flu. These 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.
• Step 4: Keep your hands and surfaces around you clean. Clean hands before eating or preparing 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.
• Step 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.
• Step 6: Stay home when you are sick. Treat the flu by getting plenty of rest, drinking fluids, and using medicines that reduce fevers.
The VA has a wealth of flu information and resources to help you stay healthy. Visit the Veterans Health Library or through My HealtheVet for video, illustrated education and more.


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