Advocate Editorial Board opinion: Keep sickness at bay during colder months

The season of sniffles, coughs, fevers and chills is upon us. The influenza virus, commonly known as the flu, is infecting people across the nation.

This year's flu season is particularly bad, and if it follows the annual trend, the season's worst month could still be ahead of us. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tracked flu seasons from the 1982-83 season to the 2011-12 season. The peak month of infection during the annual flu season was most often February, followed by January and March, then December. Officially, the season began on Sept. 30, but the latest information from the Texas Department of State Health Services shows the flu was widespread in Texas during the third week of 2013, with 9.73 percent of visits to health care providers for influenza-like illness, well above the 2012-13 season baseline of 4.77 percent.

We hope our readers will be cautious every year during flu season, but we especially encourage residents to be aware and prepared during this particularly strong season. Here are three simple steps recommended by the CDC to help prevent getting sick this year, starting with receiving a flu vaccine. Residents older than six months can be vaccinated unless the person is allergic to eggs, allergic to the vaccine or people ill with a fever. Vaccination will protect a person from the three strains of the influenza virus research suggests will be most prevalent this season.

Next, residents should take preventative action to avoid passing the virus from person to person. Avoid getting close to sick people. Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze and throw the tissue away after use. Wash your hands with anti-bacterial soap or use an alcohol-based hand rub. Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth and disinfect surfaces that may be exposed to germs. If you do get sick, limit contact with others to prevent exposing them to infection and do not go back to work until at least 24 hours after your fever subsides.

Third, take antiviral drugs if prescribed by your doctor. These drugs can make a sickness milder and shorten the time you may be sick.

We hope Crossroads residents will follow these instructions and take precautions to protect themselves and their families from the flu virus. Coming down with an illness is never pleasant, and we hope everyone will remain safe and healthy in the days to come.

This editorial reflects the views of the Victoria Advocate's editorial board.