As can be expected every autumn, the flu is here again. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, influenza activity in the United States is continuing to increase; current surveillance data indicates that the influenza season is getting started early. For better or for worse, the data doesn’t yet provide any information that will be able to judge how severe this year’s flu season will be. This past week, eight states reported widespread influenza activity (Alabama, Alaska, Mississippi, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Rhode Island and South Carolina), and four states (Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas) reported high flu-like illness levels. These numbers will increase over the coming weeks, so be prepared for the flu.
And for people with diabetes, the flu can be deadly. The CDC states that people with diabetes are three times more likely to die from flu complications than people without diabetes, and that death rates from pneumonia and influenza among African-Americans with diabetes are double the death rates among whites with diabetes.
The CDC’s website has several webpages with information about the flu for people with diabetes:
There’s a lot to digest, so I’ll summarize some of the highlights from these webpages here.
To start with, everyone should
1. Avoid close contact with people who are sick. When you are sick, keep your distance from others to protect them from getting sick too.
2. If possible, stay home from work, school, and errands when you are sick. You will help prevent others from catching your illness.
3. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. It may prevent those around you from getting sick.
4. Clean your hands. Washing your hands often will help protect you from germs. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
5. Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs are often spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches his or her eyes, nose, or mouth.
6. Practice other good health habits: Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat nutritious food. And quit smoking.
It’s widely accepted that getting an influenza vaccination or “flu shot” is the best way to prevent getting flu. The flu shot is an inactivated vaccine (that is, it contains killed virus) that is given with a needle, usually in the upper arm. This kind of flu shot is approved for use in people older than 6 months, including healthy people and people with chronic medical conditions including diabetes. There are three different variants of these flu shots available: a regular flu shot approved for people ages 6 months and older; a high-dose flu shot approved for people 65 and older, and an intradermal (into the skin) flu shot approved for people 18 to 64 years of age.