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Originally published: 2013-01-22 16:07:30
Last modified: 2013-01-22 16:07:30

Our View: Healthy trend to beat the flu

You know this flu season is bad, and not only because the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tells you so. Google says so, too, and Google knows.

Working with the CDC, Google's Flu Trendstracks provides a snapshot of global influenza activity in real time by tracking how often people search for terms involving the flu. The result of monitoring this relationship, between how many people search for flu-related topics and how many people have flu symptoms, is nearly spot-on, as shown by a resulting graph that overlays United States data from the CDC.

And this year, spot-on means that the United States is experiencing its worst flu season in a decade. Information released Friday from the CDC indicates that the flu has been reported in 44 states, and that the number of people going to the hospital for treatment of flu symptoms has doubled in the past month. 

North Carolina is certainly one of those states, and the bad news is that although the flu arrived a month earlier than usual this year, in November, it is not expected to depart anytime soon. Compounding this concern is that 95 percent of the United States' flu vaccine has already been shipped, and there is not enough time due to the manufacturing process to make more.

If you've had the flu vaccine, as the CDC suggests, research says you have between a 60 percent and 70 percent chance of preventing the flu. But whether you've had the flu shot or not,  the CDC offers a litany of good health habits that can be used to treat and prevent the flu: avoid close contact, stay home if you are sick, cover your mouth and nose, clean your hands, avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth and practice other good health habits such as disinfecting frequently touched surfaces at home and work, getting enough sleep and exercise, and drinking plenty of water and eating nutritious foods.None of these tips are startling -- you heard them first from mom -- but with a flu season that's poised to get worse before it gets better, these are common sense measures that can help keep you and your family healthy.