It is hard to listen to the news or read the newspaper and not hear or read something about the flu. This year, the flu has been more severe than in recent years.
The flu, also called influenza, is a highly contagious respiratory infection caused by the influenza viruses. These viruses generally enter the body through the mucous membranes of the mouth, nose or eyes.
Mucous membranes are tissues that line the body cavities or passages in the throat, nose, mouth, urethra, rectum and vagina. They produce their namesake thick, slippery liquid that protects them and keeps them moist.
The flu virus is usually most active from October through May, what we usually call flu season.
Older adults, young children and people with compromised immune systems and other health conditions are at higher risk for serious complications from the flue. Each year in the United States, between 5 and 20 percent of the population gets the flu. More than 200,000 people are hospitalized from flu complications, and about 23,600 people die from flu-related causes.
Generally, when person who has the flu coughs or sneezes, the virus becomes airborne. This live virus can then be inhaled by anyone in the area. You can also get the flu if you’ve touched a contaminated surface such as a telephone or a door knob, and then touch your nose or mouth. Of course, the risk of infection is greater in highly populated areas such as schools, buses and crowded urban settings.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists the symptoms of influenza as follows: fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills, and sometimes diarrhea or vomiting.
It is important to note that not everyone with influenza will have a fever (a temperature of 100° F [37.8° C] or greater). Yacht crew should consider someone to have a fever if the patient feels warm to the touch, indicates they feel hot or feverish, or when you actually measure their temperature it is 100° F (37.8° C) or greater.
If a passenger or crew member has Influenza-Like Illness (ILI), before leaving port they should be advised against traveling for at least 24 hours after the fever ends (without the use of fever-reducing medications). This is not only best for the individual, it is best for everyone else onboard.
Passengers and crew already onboard when symptoms begin should be separated from other passengers and crew as much as possible. They should also wear a facemask to prevent the airborne spread of the virus.
When possible, assign one person to deliver meals, medication and all other deliveries. This person delivering care should wear a disposable mask and gloves.
If the sick individual shares a cabin with someone else, that person should sleep elsewhere to lessen the chance of becoming infected.
If you are sending a passenger or crew member with ILI to a medical facility, notify the facility in advance. Also, use care in transporting the sick person, trying not to infect others along the way.
If someone onboard is feeling flu-like symptoms, proper hygiene is very important. Remind that person to cover their nose and mouth with a tissue when they cough or sneeze. And remind everyone else to wash their hands often with soap and water or with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
And believe it or not, there’s an app for the flu. The free Fight the Flu mobile app for your smartphone (www.flufacts.com/iphone-app.jsp) offers powerful tools to help protect yourself and your family against the flu. You can track flu activity in your area, receive free e-mail alerts, check the symptoms of flu, get flu prevention tips and learn what to do if you’ve been exposed to flu. If you get it (the app, that is), please send me an e-mail and let me know if you find it helpful.
Keith Murray, a former firefighter EMT, owns The CPR School, a first-aid training company. He provides onboard training for yacht captains and crew and sells and services AEDs. Contact him at 877-623-3277 or through www.TheCPRSchool.com. Comments on this column are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.