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Influenza in the panhandle

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The flu season is already making it's way across the country.

We are still one month away from when flu season normally starts. So far, this month alone the CDC has reported 75 influenza cases.

"Usually what we start doing, is we start seeing a little bit of influenza B or influenza A frequently in November or December, and then after the kids come back from Christmas break we start seeing more flu on into January and that sort of collimates in a peak in late January or early February," Todd Bell, M.D. with Texas Tech School of Medicine says.

Already there has been influenza B activity here in the panhandle. But flu isn't the only virus making people sick.

"One of the interesting things is is that the same time during flu season, we see lots of non-influenza viruses as well. As a matter of fact, during the peak of the flu season, probably only about 30 percent of what drives people to the doctors office with a flu like illness is actually the flu. The rest of it are other types of viral infections," Bell says.

All which are easily passed to other people.

"Any time you touch a surface or touch another person, you can transfer bacteria or viruses from your own hands to the other person. And that's how easy it is to transmit things," Carolyn Bouma, Ph.D., Microbiology assistant professor at WTAMU says.

A task as simple as washing your hands could help prevent the spread of the flu.

"Hand washing is a good idea at any time. And making sure that people wash their hands before and after they eat, after they touch their face, after going to the bathroom, etc. Those things are going to be able to protect them against lost of different types of infectious diseases," Bell says.

But, Dr. Bell says protecting yourself with the flu shot is also one of the best preventative measures.

Today is also the CDC's fifth annual global hand washing day. Hand washing is the most inexpensive and effective way to prevent the spread of germs to keep people healthy.

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