With flu season right around the corner, Dr. Susan Rehm, medical director of the NFID and vice chairman of the Department of Infectious Diseases at the Cleveland Clinic, and Anna Post, great-great-granddaughter of Emily Post and co-author of Emily Post's Etiquette 18th edition book joined me yesterday to discuss flu prevention and proper flu etiquette and influenza faux paus.
Candace Rose: Dr. Rehm, lets start with you- can you tell us about the Centers for Disease Control's "Take 3" approach to controlling flu prevention?
Dr. Susan Rehm: "The CDC has a very nice way to remember some of the big three things that we should do to help keep ourselves well, and in particularly to prevent influenza. The first one is to get vaccinated. Unfortunately fewer than half of Americans get vaccinated every year despite the fact that the CDC recommends that everyone six months of age and older get vaccine, so that's the number one preventative. It's not too late, flu season usually peaks in February or later, so please go out and get a vaccine if you haven't already. The second thing is protection, and Anna's going to talk a little bit more about that later; but these are things like covering your cough, washing your hands frequently, staying home from work- that's number two.
Number three is use antivirals. If you have influenza and your doctor prescribes it, antivirals may be helpful to you. So take three and stay well."
Candace Rose: What are some early indicators of flu and should we stay home as soon as we feel them?
Dr. Susan Rehm: "It's really important to recognize the difference between influenza and a cold. Influenza's a serious illness. It can be prevented and it can be treated as well. But it something that should lead you to stay home. And we like to remember the word FACTS to help remind you of the symptoms of influenza that are unique to influenza: fever, aches, chills, tiredness and most importantly sudden onset. If the flu starts suddenly, colds usually come on quite gradually. So if you feel that sudden onset of symptoms and it might be muscle aches or headache, extreme fatigue and it's sudden onset, really thinking about taking yourself out of the work place, out of school or whatever you're doing; calling your doctor and heading home to help start getting better."
Candace Rose: Can you tell us about some online tools that track local flu activity?
Dr. Susan Rehm: "Yes, the site FluFACTS.com includes a lot of links including links to maps of the United States indicating flu activity, and a lot of very helpful preventive hints as well as links to our applications that you can download into your phone. FluFACTS.com is a great one, and another good one is NFID.org, that's the website for the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases and we also like the CDC website CDC.gov or Flu.gov which has up to the minute reports of flu activity in all areas throughout the United States."
Candace Rose: Anna, can you tell us about proper etiquette when it comes to the flu?
Anna Post: "Absolutely. You know, it's interesting, people debate how good Americans manners are but the NFID did do a survey that showed that about nearly two thirds of Americans when asked, will admit to being 'that guy' who goes about their daily business even though they have signs of the flu out and about with others, coughing, all of that and we really need to be doing better when it comes to that. This is the time to stay home, call your doctor even if you maybe wanted to go out to a lovely dinner party. It used to be considered rude to cancel on that hostess. Nowadays I think pretty much any hostess worth knowing is going to say yes, please stay home."
Candace Rose: How do you politely address touchy conversations with "that guy" who resumes daily activities while ill with the flu?
Anna Post: "You know, it is okay to go ahead and approach people from time to time. What you want to do is show some care and concern in your voice, instead of that kind of node of ick and disgust. So say it's somebody at work who isn't looking so hot, you can say just that- 'you aren't looking so well. I'm worried it might be the flu, I think you should go home and maybe see a doctor'. That is the way to address it. You can even do that with a stranger, you know, 'I can tell you're not feeling well but would you mind covering your mouth when you cough, thank you'."
Candace Rose: Do either of you have any additional tips or information you'd like to share?
Anna Post: "One of the best things that you can do is to cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze. Use a tissue even though that handkerchief looks nice and retro. You don't want to hold onto that so dispose of the tissue. If you can't have that, into your sleeve towards the crook of your elbow, not up the toward your wrist, that help you with some of that prevention. And visiting FluFACTS as Dr. Rehm said to learn some more tips and it will link you to the FluFACTS facebook page where you can take some more quizzes to check out your flu etiquette this season."
Dr. Rehm: "That's what I wanted, that quiz!"