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Do you have a cold? Or is it the flu?

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ROCHELLE B. BIRKELO
December 28, 2007
— The flu season is here.

Eleven cases have been confirmed in Wisconsin, said Karen Cain, director of nursing at the Rock County Health Department.


“There probably are more cases, but these are the ones that have been confirmed by lab testing,” she said.


Cain answered these questions:


Q: What is the difference between a cold and the flu?
A: The flu and common cold both are respiratory illnesses but are caused by different viruses. Because they have similar symptoms, it can be difficult to tell the difference.

In general, the flu is worse than the common cold. Fever, aches, fatigue and dry cough are more intense.


Colds usually are milder. People with colds are more likely to have a runny or stuffy nose. Colds generally do not result in serious health problems, such as pneumonia, bacterial infections, or hospitalizations.


Q: Is it too late to get a flu shot?
A: No. In the United States, the flu season can peak from late December through March. Flu vaccines can be given through the end of the flu season.
Q: What is the new medication that a person can use at the first sign of a cold to lessen symptoms, and does it work?
A: There are several prescription medications, including Tamiflu and Relenza, that can shorten the duration of the flu if taken in the first 48 hours after symptoms begin.

Flumist is an alternative to getting a flu shot. It is a vaccine sprayed into the nostrils rather than injected into the muscle. It is approved for healthy people 2 to 49 who are not pregnant.


Q: When should a person go to the doctor?
A: If you develop flu-like symptoms and are concerned about your illness, especially if you are at high risk for complications, you should consult your health-care provider. Those at high risk for complications include people 65 or older, pregnant women, young children and people with chronic medical conditions, such as asthma, diabetes, or heart disease.

If you get the flu, there are some actions you can take a home:


-- Rest


-- Drink plenty of liquids.


-- Avoid using alcohol and tobacco.


-- Take medication to relieve the symptoms of flu, but never give aspirin to children or teens who have flu-like symptoms—particularly fever—without speaking to your doctor.


Q: How do I keep from infecting co-workers?
A: These steps may help prevent the spread of respiratory illnesses such as the flu:

-- Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze and throw the tissue away after you use it.


-- Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. If you are not near water, use an alcohol-based hand cleaner.


-- Avoid close contact with people who are sick. When you are sick, keep your distance from others to protect them from getting sick, too.


-- If you get the flu, stay home from work, school, and social gatherings.


-- Try not to touch your eyes, nose or mouth—common gateways for germs to enter your body.



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