OLYMPIA – The Influenza season has arrived. Thurston/Lewis County Health Officer Dr. Diana Yu says there have been several cases of the illness in recent weeks. "We have received a number of reports of lab confirmed influenza in Olympia and surrounding areas. The most important message is to take steps to protect yourself from the flu and to inhibit the spread of the illness if you have it." She says those steps include-
- To keep from catching influenza - Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly, stay at least 3 - 4 feet away from others, especially those who are ill.
- Use and alcohol based hand sanitizers, which are extremely effective at killing influenza and other viruses on hands. Use them after touching tables, possibly contaminated surfaces, and before rubbing your eyes.
- To prevent spreading influenza - Cover your cough, wash your hands, and stay home when you are sick.
Dr. Yu reminds those who have just gotten a flu shot, that it takes about 2 weeks to get full immunity.
Norwalk-like viruses have also been in the news lately. Dr. Yu says this type of illness causes epidemic vomiting and diarrhea, especially in the winter months. "It is well known as the cause of 'cruise ship outbreaks' but can occur in any setting. These viruses are very small and are highly contagious." The best way to prevent a Norwalk-like illness is to-
- Wash hands thoroughly after using the bathroom and before preparing meals.
- Use alcohol based hand sanitizers after touching door handles or shopping carts at the grocery store.
- Not touch ready to eat food with bare hands, unless you are eating it yourself.
- Not prepare meals for others if you are sick.
- Stay home from work if you are vomiting and/or have diarrhea until at least 48 hours after all symptoms stop.
- Use a 10% bleach solution to sanitize surfaces that may become contaminated.
Dr. Yu says a few common sense steps will make it easier for everyone to avoid getting sick and to limit the spread of illness. Contact your health care provider if you have questions.