Sneezing, coughing, body aches, high temperature, and more may sound like the introduction to a television commercial, but it's not. The list are just a few of the signs and symptoms that have been associated with the flu this year. According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) flu season typically kicks off in October, peaks around February and can extend until late May.

“Statistics show this season alone, influenza activity has been elevated for the last eight weeks (end of November),” Dr. Daisy Benigno, Internal Medicine provider with Steward Medical Group, said. “The flu can be a serious illness and needs to be treated as such. A flu shot is your best protection.”

The CDC estimates so far this season there have been at least 9.7 million flu illnesses, 87,000 hospitalizations and 4,800 deaths from flu, as of last week. According to Dr. Beingno, the flu season in the Southern hemisphere is the indication of what is to come in the Northern hemisphere, which is the United States.

“A person should see their provider on the first signs of the flu,” Dr. Benigno said. “The flu shot is very beneficial; we are not through with influenza season and it can still be very beneficial and should be received.”

Flu symptoms include fever, cough, chills, sweats, muscle and or body aches, vomiting or severe stomach cramps, diarrhea or just feeling bad. Dr. Benigno mentioned that while there are common signs and symptoms of the flu, every person is different and some patients can test positive without severe symptoms.

During flu season especially, prevention is important. Continuous hand washing and the use of hand sanitizer is important. Other preventative measures include avoiding crowded areas and other areas where you can be easily exposed, disinfect common surfaces and your phone, and try to keep your hands away from your face, and don't shake hands during flu season.

“Wash, wash, wash your hands,” Dr. Benigno said. “If you are coughing, use the elbow cough technique; this protects your hands from spreading germs. During sick season, it's advised to not shake hands as another measure of protection. Carrying sanitizer with you is beneficial as well.”

While proactive measures are helpful in limiting the spread of flu, the first line of defense is the flu shot. Those aged six months and above are advised to get the flu vaccine.

Managing Editor

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