If you’ve noticed a dramatic uptick in sneezing, coughing, and tissue waving in the last few weeks, it isn’t a fever dream. Yes, along with the ethereal first dusting of snow, all the Christmas classics back on Netflix, and screamin’ deals on turkey, often comes the holidays’ less celebrated counterpart: flu season. Last year, a record 841 people in southwest Colorado were confirmed with the flu and it wasn’t just a flu-ke, rather a part of a bigger trend across the state. But we didn’t write this just to bum you out. There are a lot of tried-and-true steps that you can take to stay in top-top shape for hitting the slopes and surviving the onslaught of family gatherings ahead.

The Communicable Disease program at San Juan Basin Public Health has learned a thing or two in our years of tracking and analyzing infectious disease trends in Southwest Colorado, one of them being the importance of getting your flu shot. We all hate needles and having a sore upper arm for a little bit but getting the flu shot isn’t just long-game self-care. It also helps to protect your friends, family, fellow City Market-shoppers, and, most importantly, those who can’t get the shot due to having a weaker immune system. No one wants to be responsible for giving the gift of influenza to their 90-year-old grand-nan or best friend’s new baby this holiday season.

In addition to getting your flu shot, here are some ways you can fight the spread this year:

  • Try to avoid close contact with sick people – another great excuse to stay in with Netflix on a brisk, 20-degree evening.
  • If you suspect you have the flu, do your officemates a favor and stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to see your doctor or run out to the pharmacy. (We should mention your fever should be gone naturally – it doesn’t count if you’ve been pounding the Ibuprofen.)
  • Be polite – cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. And we’re all about Reduce Reuse Recycle, but tissues have one life. Use it, toss it, wash your hands.
  • Stock up on soap and make hand-washing your new best friend. Keep an alcohol-based hand sanitizer nearby for moments when soap and water are hard to find.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth. Not only will you be stopping germs at the door, but you’ll be practicing a pillar of great skin-care.
  • Let out your inner neat-freak and clean and disinfect high-traffic surfaces and objects.

Often, the terms ‘flu’ and ‘stomach bug’ have been confused with each other. To clarify, the flu results in symptoms such as fever, body aches, cough, and shortness of breath. The stomach bug may be caused by a variety of gastrointestinal viruses and will result in symptoms that may include vomiting, diarrhea, nausea, and abdominal pain. If you feel ill with any of these symptoms please do friends, co-workers, and fellow students a favor by staying home. Your absence will be their saving grace.

This winter share happy memories with family and friends, not communicable diseases.

For more information visit https://sjbpublichealth.org/communicabledisease/ or contact Samie Stephens, MPH, at (970) 335-2001 or sstephens@sjbpublichealth.org.

Samie Stephens is the Regional Epidemiologist for Southwest Colorado at San Juan Basin Public Health.

Christine Farley is a Communications Specialist at San Juan Basin Public Health.