Paige Baschuk, Daily Briefing
CDC's latest flu report suggests the 2013-2014 flu season is off to a slow start, although two states already are seeing moderate levels of flu activity.
According to the latest report, which included data through Nov. 9, there have been two flu-related pediatric deaths and a slight increase in patients seeing their doctors for flu-like symptoms. Overall, just 1.6% of patient visits nationwide were related to influenza-like illnesses.
According to the data:
- Mississippi is seeing the most flu activity, with "elevated moderate" levels;
- Alabama is seeing "low moderate" levels of flu; and
- Louisiana, Texas, and Vermont are seeing "elevated low" levels of flu.
There has been no reported influenza activity in six states: Maryland, Missouri, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont, and West Virginia.
Check out the map of U.S. flu activity
CNN: How to protect yourself, your home from flu
Experts warn that low levels of flu activity in early November should not be used as an excuse to avoid vaccinations.
Ready for flu season? How new options may make the fight easier
After getting vaccinated, consider making some changes to your home to fight the flu as well, according to Ted Myatt, senior scientist at Environmental Health and Engineering consulting firm. Writing for CNN's "Cold & Flu Report," Myatt recommends:
- Investing in a portable humidifier. Humidity can plummet to as low as 10% in the winter months, but a review of nearly 40 peer-reviewed studies found that homes kept at 40% to 60% relative humidity have 30% fewer flu viruses lingering in the air and on hard surfaces.
- Installing germicidal UV lights. These light bulbs—capable of killing bacterial and viral microorganisms—can be used on tricky surfaces, such as computer keyboards.
- Disinfecting surfaces. Use a disinfectant approved by the Environmental Protection Agency targeted at killing the influenza-A virus. Use the disinfectant on doorknobs, electronics, and remote controls.
- Using an air purifier. While disinfectants will kill bacteria on surfaces, an air purifier with a "HEPA filter" will help remove particles from the air. This is especially important during winter months, when people spend more time inside and keep their windows sealed.
- Washing bed linens frequently. The flu virus can live longer on porous surfaces—such as towels, linens, and blankets—than on hard surfaces, yet most people focus on countertops, dishes, etc. Wash towels and linens in hot water with detergent and dry on a hot setting.