Contrary to the common belief that the best way to handle the flu is to stay home and suffer through, a person who believes they are coming down with the flu should seek treatment, said Lisa Teel, emergency planning and risk management director.
“If you believe you have the flu, then as quickly as you can, go to your medical care provider,” Teel said.
“There are antiviral medications that can be administered within the first 24 to 48 hours that can lessen the severity of your symptoms so it doesn’t knock you flat on your back.”
However, Teel said, the best way to avoid getting or spreading the flu is to practice common courtesy and common sense.
“If you sneeze or cough, do it into a tissue, throw it away and immediately wash your hands,” Teel said.
“If you don’t have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your sleeve, not your hand, to avoid passing it on.”
Flu can be spread through coughing, sneezing or indirect contact, Teel said.
“If someone has the germs on their hands and they touch a telephone or a keyboard (or) a doorknob, then those germs can be picked up by someone else touching that object,” she said.
“If that person then touches his or her eyes, nose or mouth, then they can contract it. So it is highly communicable that way.”
And while alcohol sanitizers can kill germs if they have a 60 percent or more alcohol base, as the sanitizer around the college does, it’s no substitute for hand washing, Teel said.
“But in the event that you don’t have the opportunity to wash your hands, it can be used as a back up, and it can kill some germs.”
However, the best way for an infected person to prevent the spread of flu at work or school is to stay home, Teel said.
And the reason for that level of caution isn’t based solely on how contagious the disease is, she said, but also on how long it’s contagious.
Victims of the flu can be contagious from one day before symptoms start showing, up to seven days after symptoms begin.
“So if you have symptoms, don’t come to campus. Don’t spread it around.”
Teel said the safest course is to stay at home until a flu victim has been symptom free for a full 24 hours without the help of medication.
“However, when we tell people to stay home, that doesn’t mean if you’re employed here, you don’t have a responsibility to let your employer know you have the flu, or if you’re a student to let your professors know.”
In the event that a co-worker or fellow student comes in with flu-like symptoms, Teel said, try to avoid using the equipment they use. If the equipment is shared, however, sanitizing is the best bet.
“Lysol’s a good thing to have around,” Teel said. “We keep it in my office, and if anybody calls and says they’re sick, we immediately go and spray down their keyboard and telephone, and any equipment they may have used.”
Teel said to also keep a bit of distance from a sick individual, to avoid being coughed or sneezed on by accident.
“But I think, if an individual is couching, sneezing or throwing up, the supervisor could ask that individual, if they’re not feeling well, to go home,” Teel said.
“So if you’re not feeling well, definitely let your supervisor know.”
Flu shots also are a definite must for flu season, Teel said.
“You should have them, regardless of your age. A lot of people have the misconception that it’s a live virus in the shots and that they’ll get a touch of the flu when they get the shot. That is not true. They use a dead virus in the shots.”
Teel said the shots take about two weeks to work, and that anyone exposed to the flu within that time frame after receiving the shots may still get sick, which may give rise to the misconception.
Teel said the shots are only good for six months.
“So you absolutely should have a shot twice a year, to keep your immunity up.”
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Flu shots best prevention
Oklahoma City-County health Department Main Clinic
921 NE 23rd Street / 405-427-8651
7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday, Tuesday and Thursday; 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesdays; 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Fridays
Walk-in or make an appointment.
Cost: $25. Fee waivers issued on basis of income or through various programs. Eligibility requirements for fee waiver can be found at www.occhd.org/health/flu/influenza-vaccination. Cannot be covered by insurance.
Pharmacies Offering Flu Shots at Various Locations in the metro:
Access Medical Center Walk-in only from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Cost: $25. Accepts most insurance. Fee waivers not available.Visit www.accessmedicalcenters.com for locations.
Walgreen’s Pharmacy Walk-in or make an appointment. Hours vary by location. Available any time the pharmacy is open. Cost: $31.99. Accepts most insurance. Fee waivers not available.
Visit www.walgreens.com/topic/health-shops/flu-shots.jsp for store hours and locations.
CVS Pharmacy Walk-in or make an appointment. Hours vary by location. Available whenever a certified immunizer is on duty. Cost: $29.99. Accepts most insurance. Customer receives a $5 gift card if insurance does not cover flu shot. Fee waivers not available. Visit www.cvs.com/flu/ for store hours and locations.
Homeland Pharmacy Walk-in or make an appointment. Hours vary by location. Available any time the pharmacy is open. Cost: $23.99. Accepts most insurance. No co-pay for Medicare customers. Cost covered for SoonerCare customers. Visit www.homelandstores.com/Pharmacy for store hours and locations.