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Jeanie Groh column: Students learn about flu, and you should too

West Rowan Middle School’s eighth-grade science students are extra prepared for the flu season after they spent some time Monday morning with Dr. Yomi Agbedi, an infectious disease specialist for Novant.

While Agbedi was there to talk to West Rowan’s students about infectious diseases, he said he also wanted to “stimulate an interest in science and educate them about infections in the news right now.”

He spent time explaining other infectious diseases such as rabies, MRSA, HIV and Ebola, but Agbedi spent the majority of his time explaining flu causes, symptoms and prevention.

“The more you know, the less afraid you are,” he said, adding that it’s always best to know and understand what’s going on.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, the flu is “a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses that infect the nose, throat and lungs,” causing mild to severe illness.

Common symptoms of the flu are cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches, fatigue and, oftentimes, fever or feeling feverish with chills. Some people can also experience vomiting or diarrhea, but those symptoms are more common in children than adults.

People are most often infected with the flu when droplets “made when people with flu cough, sneeze or talk” land in the mouths or noses of those nearby, according to the Centers for Disease Control’s website.

Flu patients are typically contagious one day before they develop symptoms and five to seven days after they become sick. Young children can be contagious even longer.

This year, the flu has reached epidemic status, but that’s not too unusual.

“Things are bad now, but they’ve been a lot worse,” Agbedi told the West Rowan students.

He stressed the importance of hand washing and getting the flu vaccine.

“The big thing is – use soap,” he said. “Hand washing does work.”

The flu shot is never 100 percent effective. Typically, it works 40 to 60 percent of the time. This year, it is projected to be roughly 50 percent effective, Agbedi said.

“Contrary to popular belief, even this year, it works,” he added.

If you have the flu, Agbedi also said it’s important to get to your doctor quickly, because they can prescribe medicines that will reduce the duration of your symptoms and make you less infective to others.

The Centers for Disease Control offers these additional tips for students at school to avoid getting and spreading the flu:

  • Stay home when you are sick. If possible, stay home from work, school and errands when you are sick. You will help prevent others from catching your illness. Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue away after use and wash your hands. If a tissue is not available, cover your mouth and nose with your sleeve, not your hand.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread this way.

Clean and disinfect surfaces or objects. Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces at home, work or school, especially when someone is ill.

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