Riley Heruska
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Unless you've been living under a rock for the past few months, you're probably aware of this year's intense flu outbreak and its serious effects. As of February 13, the rate of flu-related hospitalizations was the highest the CDC has ever recorded in U.S. history, and Texas isn't immune to the illness. More than 100 North Texan lives have been claimed, and experts fear the worst of the influenza outbreak may still be on its way. Many DFW schools, offices, and other organizations have temporarily closed their doors as a result of the flu. 

To combat the spread of the influenza in your community, here are a few things you can start doing today: 

- Get vaccinated. Even though it's late in the flu season, it's not too late to get immunized against the illness, according to the CDC and other experts. This will help protect your immune system, as well as those of small children and the elderly that you come in contact with. Even if you do contract the flu after getting the vaccine, the illness will most likely be less severe and quicker to leave the body. 

- Limit the amount of in-person meetings and events you attend. Obviously, you'll need to socialize and go out in public on certain days, but the more you can minimize your contact with potentially contagious people, the better. 

- Wash your hands like you mean it. Sure, you run some hot water on your hands with a splash of soap a few times each day, but are you really desanitizing properly? Make sure it takes at least fifteen seconds to scrub your hands, and try to clean every spot thoroughly, even under your fingernails. 

- Get moving every single day. Research has indicated that moderate exercise can boost the immune system and encourage it to send more white blood cells out to attack invading illness. 

- Disinfect surfaces and objects you touch frequently. Your phone, desk, keyboard, kitchen, and doorknobs can all harbor germs, so keep a can of Lysol and some anti-bacterial wipes handy. 

Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth. This is the easiest way for germs to invade your body, especially if you're not great about washing your hands frequently. 

- Get enough sleep every night. One of the best ways to prevent illnesses from taking root in your body is to boost your immune system with plenty of rest. Adults should be getting at least seven hours of sleep each night and children should be getting at least nine or ten. 

If you do start to feel sick, immediately leave work or school to decrease your chances of spreading the flu. Head to a doctor for a flu test and antiviral drugs, then stay home until your fever has receded naturally for at least 24 hours straight. Do everything you can to minimize your exposure to others while you're infected and encourage your friends and family to be on high-alert for their own symptoms. 

To learn more about the flu and what you can do to prevent it, check out the CDC's official guides and news. Stay safe and healthy, everyone! 

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