What do you need to know about the flu? - Dallas News | myFOXdfw.com

What do you need to know about the flu?

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ATLANTA -

The flu has come on like gangbusters in the last couple of weeks hitting a month earlier than usual. The seasonal flu is one of those things that do not really seem all that bad until you actually catch the flu. So what do you need to know about it? Do you need to get vaccinated?

Walk into any emergency room and they will tell you the flu is here. According to the CDC's Flu Activity and Surveillance Map, Georgia is at "orange" or moderate to high flu levels. Most of the south is already in the bright red.

A third of the way through the flu season and the CDC says less than 40 percent of Americans have actually gotten vaccinated.

Children's Chief of Pediatrics Dr. Jim Fortenberry says if you haven't, get it.

There is a 5 to 20 percent chance of catching the flu each year and getting vaccinated will not protect you 100 percent. For all groups, the vaccine is 60 percent effective. It works better if you are younger and healthy. If offers less protection to seniors and people with health issues.

How much protection you receive from the vaccine depends on how good a match the vaccine is to the flu strains circulating.

"The strains that are in it appear to be very consistent with the kind of flu that's out there. So the flu vaccine does work in help preventing getting the flu, so it's not too late," said Dr. Fortenberry.

The flu is a respiratory virus, usually contagious for about five to seven days after someone first develops symptoms. So it is best to avoid close contact with anyone who appears ill.

Don't touch your mouth, eyes and nose and wash your hands often with soap and water.

Also, make sure if someone in your home or office catches the flu, to wipe down any areas that get touched a lot. This includes door handles, computer keyboards and mice, phones, and any other common surfaces.

If your child is healthy and gets the flu, Dr. Fortenberry says to skip the ER and stay at home. Treat the child with rest, fluids and Tylenol to break the fever.

And if you get sick, make sure not to go to school, work or out in public until at least 24 hours following a fever breaking.

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