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Cover your mouth, cover your bases to avoid flu

Washing hands is important regardless of the season, and it can prevent the spread of influenza viruses very well.
BY GREG ELWELL Published: February 5, 2013

“Within 48 hours of getting sick, see a doctor and ask about antiviral treatments like Tamiflu,” he said. “They can reduce the impact and length of the illness by prohibiting the virus from spreading to new cells in the body.”

To avoid spreading the virus, patients should avoid other people if possible.

“It may seem rude at first, but people tend to understand and appreciate it when you explain you don't want to share your illness,” he said.

People are most likely to infect others with the flu starting about a day before their symptoms begin and through the first five to seven days of the illness. Once you start to feel better, you're not likely to pass it on to anybody else, Prescott said.

If all goes well, most people are clear of the flu after a week or so. But if it sticks around longer, return to the doctor, Prescott said.

A virus that hangs around can give birth to a secondary infection or even pneumonia.

“There is no silver bullet to absolutely ensure you won't get the flu,” he said. “But if you take reasonable precautions, your chances of avoiding a week of body aches, sneezing and nausea will improve significantly.”

Greg Elwell is a public affairs specialist with Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation.

OMRF ( is an independent, nonprofit biomedical research institute dedicated to understanding and developing more effective treatments for human diseases. Its scientists focus on such critical research areas as cancer, lupus and cardiovascular disease.