SUNDAY, Nov. 11, 2018 (HealthDay News) -- If the last flu season is any indication, you need to take steps now to protect yourself against infection, an infectious diseases expert warns.
The 2017-2018 flu season in the United States was the worst since the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention began tracking the severity of annual flu seasons. There were nearly 200 child deaths and about 80,000 adult deaths.
The number of U.S. deaths in a typical flu season usually ranges from 12,000 to 56,000.
The first step in protecting yourself from the flu is getting a flu shot.
"Even if it doesn't prevent you from getting the flu, it can prevent you from getting really sick from it to the point of hospitalization or death. To me, that's a huge benefit," said Dr. Catharine Paules, an infectious diseases physician at Penn State Health.
Other preventive measures include: frequent hand washing; covering your face when you sneeze; avoiding sick people; and staying home when you're sick until you are fever-free for at least 24 hours.
But, Paules stressed in a university news release, "Most importantly, get vaccinated!"
In addition, people at high risk for developing complications from the flu can be given antiviral medications at the first sign of symptoms, she said. Those people include infants, people older than 65 and anyone with another medical condition that may weaken their immune system.
The American Academy of Family Physicians has more on preventing the flu.