The Coronavirus outbreak which originated in China has taken over news headlines across the world during the past few weeks. I recently attended a briefing for Members of Congress on the Coronavirus, and this outbreak does raise direct concerns for us in the United States, as the virus is not currently spreading across our country. There are viruses currently circulating the United States that deserve our attention. As the winter season commences, so begins an annual season we do not necessarily look forward to: flu season. Let’s focus on something here that affects millions of Americans and even several thousands of Alabamians.
The flu virus is one that comes to our attention each year, and it’s no secret that we all try to avoid catching it. Unfortunately, it is such a common sickness that many people do not realize how dangerous the flu virus really is. During the 2018-2019 flu season, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated that up to 42.9 million Americans got sick, 647,000 were hospitalized, and 61,200 people died as a result. These statistics are devastatingly high, and they have a direct effect on the people of Alabama.
The CDC releases a weekly “FluView” surveillance report highlighting new statistics and trends of the flu virus in each state across the nation. According to the Alabama Department of Public Health, as of February 1, statewide flu-like illnesses increased by 41 percent since the last report was released the week prior. Numbers of those infected with flu-like sicknesses are rising across Alabama and the Second District, so it is critical that we all do our best to take simple precautions in order to diminish the spread of germs.
It is imperative to know about the flu virus itself and ways in which we can do our best to prevent the spread. Flu activity is most common during the fall and winter seasons, typically peaking between December and February. The timing, severity, and length varies season to season, and the virus is constantly changing. The CDC recommends three actions to protect yourself and others against the flu: take preventative steps to stop the spread of germs, get vaccinated, and seek treatment if you are ill.
It’s equally as important to educate your family as it is yourself on preventative steps that can be taken to lessen the chances of spreading germs during flu season. The CDC suggests to avoid close contact with anyone who may be sick, stay out of public if you are sick, cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze, keep your hands away from your face, wash your hands consistently, and make sure to disinfect surfaces that are frequently touched.
Many times, coming down with an illness like the flu is unavoidable. By following and incorporating these easy steps into our day-to-day routines, we can feel confident that we are doing our part in reducing the risk of flu-like illnesses within our communities. I encourage you to share this information with your families, friends, and colleagues. The distribution of this information helps raise awareness among others on this topic, and it is just as important as taking preventative steps in order to decrease the spread of illness this flu season.
Representative Martha Roby represents Alabama’s Second Congressional District. She lives in Montgomery, Alabama, with her husband Riley and their two children.