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posted: 1/7/2013 5:00 AM

Editorial: Take flu precautions for yourself, others

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Now go home. Yes, and get some rest and drink plenty of fluids.

And if you aren't sneezing or coughing yet, your lungs and nasal passages clogged with congestion, do yourself and everyone around you a favor. Get a flu shot.

Health experts say that the flu season has arrived earlier than usual this year, and it's hitting harder. As Daily Herald reporters recounted last week, hospitals in the suburbs are reporting increases in flu cases this year.

Normally, the serious flu season begins in mid-January and runs into March. But this year, the cases began as early as Thanksgiving. The local impact?

• More than 260 confirmed cases already recorded at Edward Hospital in Naperville, which normally sees 200 cases the entire flu season;

• Nearly 210 cases at Advocate Condell Medical Center in Libertyville;

• In DuPage County, flu outbreaks severe enough to report to the county health department at 18 institutions, including schools and long-term care and senior-living facilities.

• In Kane County, patients with flu symptoms accounting for 8.5 percent of hospital emergency room visits, the highest weekly rate recorded in the past six years.

• Also in Kane County, the health department reporting school absenteeism at the highest level in four years.

So, if you're feeling sick, you're not alone. And if you're not sick yet, there's no better time than the present to protect yourself against the worst.

For starters, that means getting yourself to your doctor's office or any of scores of clinics throughout the suburbs where you can get a flu shot. The shot may not be foolproof against every strain of flu, but health experts say it will protect you against 90 percent of the strains out there.

Then, use common sense precautions, including these steps recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

• Use tissue when you cough or sneeze, then throw the tissue in the trash;

• Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth;

• Avoid close contact with sick people;

• If you are sick, stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone -- without medication -- except to go to the doctor or for some emergency.

• Likewise, if your kids are sick, keep them home from school.

All too commonly, we hail as a local hero that stalwart colleague who manages to crawl into the office despite the ravages of a cold or flu. In point of fact, that hero may be sharing his or her sorrows with us and everyone else at work, at the store, the gym, the school play, the basketball game or anywhere else out in public.

So, if you want to do something really heroic regarding the flu this season, get vaccinated. Then take care of yourself and be considerate of others around you. Then, we'll all feel a lot better.

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