Seemingly safe surfaces like kitchen counters, desks, refrigerator door handles and computer keyboards may also harbor the flu virus for hours -- sometimes as long as 48 hours, according to the Mayo Clinic. Make sure these are kept clean, Lawton counseled.
If you have to cough or sneeze, do so into a tissue or into the crook of your elbow -- not into the air where droplets can easily infect people near you.
Droplets from a vigorous cough can travel at 60 mph, Graham said.
If you do start to feel sick, stay home because people are contagious a day before they get symptoms and four days after those symptoms disappear, Lawton said.
The drug Tamiflu won't prevent the flu but it will shorten the course of the illness, Lawton said. Other than that, your best bet is to rest, drink lots of fluid and take an over-the-counter pain reliever, she added.
People at particular risk for the flu and its complications are pregnant women, those 65 and older and anyone with a chronic illness. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urges these people to get a flu shot, which is available as an injection or nasal spray and in a stronger dose for seniors.
Forty-one states are reporting widespread flu activity. There have been 18 flu-related deaths of children so far and about 2,300 people have been hospitalized since Oct. 1, according to the CDC.
The epidemic is so bad in Boston, where four flu-related deaths have been reported, that Mayor Thomas Menino declared a state of emergency on Wednesday. The city has already recorded 700 confirmed cases of flu, compared with 70 cases for all of last year, according to Boston.com.
To learn more about the flu, visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control a
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