Dr. Larry Discusses Flu Outbreak
Reviewed & Approved by Dr. Larry
December through February is peak flu season, and each year, many people fall ill — some seriously or even fatally. But Dr. Larry reminds his patients that there is a big difference between the annual outbreaks of the flu and the ‘stomach flu,’ and how those illnesses are spread.
What is “The Flu,” How Is It Spread and What Can You Do to Prevent It?
- Body aches
- And more
Flu is spread through contact of airborne or surface-borne pathogens of the illness. This means that you can catch the flu when someone around you is sick with it and fails to properly cover their mouth and nose when they cough or sneeze, or even when they touch a person or object after sneezing or coughing into their hand. The flu virus can live on some surfaces for up to 24 hours.
Here’s how you can keep yourself from getting sick during flu outbreak season and help prevent the spread of influenza to others, according to the CDC:
- If you become sick with influenza, limit your exposure to others by staying home and covering your mouth when you sneeze or cough.
- Avoid close contact with anyone who’s sick with influenza, whenever possible.
- Wash your hands often and thoroughly.
- Avoid touching your face to prevent contaminating yourself with the influenza virus.
- Disinfect commonly-touched surfaces, get plenty of sleep, drink plenty of water, eat healthily, and stay physically active.
- Get vaccinated before the beginning of flu season.
What is “The Stomach Flu,” How Is It Spread and What Can You Do to Prevent It?
Norovirus also experiences an annual outbreak during the winter months, but it’s not to be confused with influenza. Norovirus is often referred to as ‘the stomach flu,’ or a ‘stomach bug,’ but its symptoms are different from influenza and the virus is spread differently, as well. Symptoms of norovirus include:
- And more
Norovirus is spread in a way that Dr. Larry and other doctors refer to as ‘fecal/oral.’ This means that the virus lives in the intestines of the body rather than the respiratory tract, like the flu. It’s transmitted from person to person when someone who is sick with norovirus comes into contact with the virus either through vomit or fecal contamination, and is then typically spread via hand contact. Norovirus has been shown to stay on kitchen countertops for at least a week, which is why hand-washing is often not enough to prevent the spread of the virus each year. “Norovirus is notorious for being very contagious,” Dr. Larry warns.
Here’s how you can prevent the rapid spread of norovirus and keep yourself from contracting ‘the stomach bug’ during outbreaks, according to the CDC:
- Wash your hands correctly, and often.
- Wash your fruits and vegetables, and cook meats and seafood thoroughly.
- If you become sick with norovirus, stay home for at least 2 to 3 days and do not prepare food for or care for others during that time.
- Disinfect potentially contaminated surfaces, particularly kitchens and bathrooms.
- Wash and disinfect contaminated laundry, and handle dirty laundry with rubber or disposable gloves.
Who Is At Risk During Influenza and Norovirus Outbreaks?
The elderly, young children and people with compromised immune systems are most in danger during influenza and norovirus outbreaks, according to Dr. Larry, “and sometimes end up needing to be hospitalized.” While most healthy adults recover from influenza or norovirus within a few days, people with vulnerable immune systems like the very old or very young often experience more serious symptoms, and therefore tend to make up the very small percentage of deaths that occur annually related to the flu and norovirus.
By keeping yourself healthy and practicing good health habits, or at least limiting your exposure to others when you become sick with the flu or the stomach bug, you can help to contain these viral outbreaks and protect people who are at risk for more serious complications from these common (if unpleasant) illnesses.