Flu Season October – April

It’s flu season. Influenza (flu) is a contagious respiratory illness caused by flu viruses. It can be mild to severe illness and at times can lead to death. People with flu can spread it to others up to about 6 feet away. Most experts think that flu viruses are spread mainly by droplets made when people with flu cough, sneeze or talk. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs. Less often, a person might also get flu by touching a surface or object that has flu virus on it and then touching their own mouth or nose.

The flu is different from a cold. The flu usually comes on suddenly, and has different symptoms than a cold:

Signs and Symptoms
Symptom onset
Usual; lasts 3-4 days
Usual; often severe
Fairly common
Fatigue, weakness
Stuffy nose
Sore throat
Chest discomfort, cough           
Common; can be severe
Mild to moderate; hacking cough

If you think you have the flu, contact your health care provider. They can prescribe an antiviral which may lessen the severity and/or shorten the duration of the illness. 
Other things you can do to prevent getting sick is to avoid crowded places during flu season, wash your hands frequently and often with warm water and soap, get plenty of rest and eat nutritious foods.
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: http://www.cdc.gov/flu/consumer 

Severe Weather Warning for NJ – Know How to Prevent Unintentional Poisoning

(Newark, NJ) October 2, 2015 As severe weather is expected for New Jersey, the NJ Poison Experts call your attention to the possible health risks that may develop during and after such conditions. During Super Storm Sandy we learned a great deal about the increased risk for unintentional poisoning/exposure.
“Families need to start thinking about their “emergency” plan in the event Joaquin becomes a reality for New Jersey,” said Steven Marcus, MD, executive and medical director of the NJ Poison Center. “Knowing what the risks are and having a plan in place makes all the difference.”
The NJ Poison Center strongly encourages all residents to program the Poison Help Line (800-222-1222) into all phones (home, cell, and office) in preparation for what may be to come in the next few days and for future events. Poison experts are available 24/7/365. Call 800-222-1222, chat www.njpies.org, or text [email protected]; the hearing impaired may also use their TTY and call 973-926-8008.
Keep cell phones charged as much as possible. If power is lost it may be lost for an extensive period of time and your cell phone may become your lifeline! You might want to be sure you have the appropriate charger to use in your car should you house’s power fail and you have access to a car.
Through education, the NJ Poison Experts hope to build awareness that although unintentional poisoning can cause serious injury and even death, they are preventable. Keep these key safety tips in mind while preparing for Hurricane Joaquin or any other weather-related event. What you learn today may potentially save your life or the life of a loved one.
·         Prevent carbon monoxide poisoning by having your heating system checked in case temperatures drop and you need to turn on the heat. Have a professional ensure that the system is working properly and there are no leaks and the system is venting properly.
o   Never heat your living area by using grills, camp stoves, or other gasoline, kerosene, propane, natural gas or charcoal-burning devices inside your home, basement, garage, carport, camper, boat cabin, or tent – or even outside near an open window or door.
·         Check detectors (fire and carbon monoxide) to be sure they are working. Change batteries if needed. If you don’t have these, install them immediately.
o   If your CO detector sounds, leave immediately and call the fire department and/or utility company.
o   For advice or questions, call the NJ Poison Experts at 1-800-222-1222. Do not waste time looking up information on the Internet.
·         Buy fire extinguishers and make sure your family knows where they are and how to use them.
·         Prepare an emergency “go bag” for your family. Include items essential for survival such as non-perishable food, clean drinking water, extra clothing, first aid supplies, medications, pet supply items, personal hygiene products, infant supplies, blankets, radio, flashlight, batteries, etc.
o   Be sure to have an extra supply of prescription medications (at least a 7 day supply) for everyone in your family including pets.
§  Check expiration dates of medications just like you would check your fire alarms and carbon monoxide detectors – every time you change the clock ahead or back for daylight savings time.
§  If you are pregnant, make sure to include your prenatal vitamins.
§  Always read medication labels before taking or giving mediations to family members including pets. Use flashlights during a power outage.
o   It’s best to have a battery operated radio and flashlights. Don’t forget to pack extra batteries for both.
·         Prepare a family and pet emergency plan including an evacuation route. Practice routinely with your family.
o   Keep important family, house, pet, and medical documents in water and fire-proof containers.
o   Show family members how to turn off water, gas and electricity at main switches in your home.
o   Put an emergency car kit in your trunk in case you are instructed to evacuate.
·         Learn about your community, workplace, and children’s school emergency plans, warning signals, and evacuation routes.
o   Enroll in their electronic emergency alert system to receive notifications.
o   Find out the location of emergency shelters. Inform local authorities about anyone with special needs/disability.
o   Staying informed. Check all types of media – websites, newspapers, radio, TV– for global, national and local information. It’s important to have not only updated information but reliable information.
·         With the threat of power outages, it is important to be careful about food stored in refrigerators and freezers. Food-borne illness, also known as food poisoning, results from the eating of food that is contaminated with harmful bacteria, viruses or other foreign material. Contamination is caused by improper food handling and preparation practices. The symptoms of food-borne illness are flu-like and may include abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and fever.
o   Make the temperature colder than usual on both freezers and refrigerators. This will prolong the cold after a power outage.
o   Place a refrigerator thermometer in the center of the middle shelf and check the temperature. If it has risen to 40 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, discard any potentially spoiled foods. Such foods include meat, poultry, fish, dairy and egg products, soft cheese, cooked beans, cooked rice, cooked potatoes, cooked pasta, potato salad, custard and pudding.
o   Fill freezers to capacity, but remember to leave room in refrigerators to allow the air to circulate.
o   Keep both refrigerator and freezer doors closed; open sparingly.
o   When power is restored, allow time for the refrigerator to reach below 40 degrees Fahrenheit before restocking.
o   If it looks funny, smells funny or if you are just unsure, “When in doubt, throw it out!”
·         Do not bring generators, pressure washers, or other gasoline, propane, natural gas or charcoal-burning devices inside your home, basement, garage, carport, camper, boat cabin, or tent – or even outside near an open window or door.
o   Only use generators outside, at least 25 feet from both your and your neighbor’s home, doors, or windows.
o   DO NOT idle a car in a closed garage. Once you pull in, immediately turn off the engine.
·         Floodwater can contain infectious organisms and toxins. Do not eat or drink anything that has been contaminated with floodwater.
o   Handwashing is an easy, effective way to prevent the spread of germs. Soap and clean water is all you need to reduce the number of germs on hands.
o   Do not drink well water until it is tested and found safe of contamination from germs or toxins. Wells may become contaminated during a flood.
o   Reduce the amount of water used by limiting toilet flushing, dishwashing, washing clothes, and showering.
·         Use clean (uncontaminated) water (bottled or boiled) to wash, prepare, or cook food, brush your teeth, wash dishes, prepare baby formula, make ice, wash hands, and bathe with.
o   Make sure to have an adequate supply of water available for washing and drinking.
o   Boil-water for at least 1 minute. Allow the water to cool before using.
Help is Just a Phone Call Away!
If someone is unconscious, not breathing, seizing/convulsing, bleeding profusely, difficult to arouse/wake up, etc., call 911 immediately, otherwise call the NJ Poison Experts at (1-800-222-1222).
Don’t waste valuable time looking up information on the Internet when every minute counts. Remember, you may not have Internet access during a power outage so it’s important to store our number now in your phones. Having a poison expert give you exact instructions for your specific situation can help significantly during those critical first few minutes,” said Marcus. 
We are social. Join us on Facebook (www.facebook.com/njpies) and Twitter (@NJPoisonCenter) for breaking news, safety tips, trivia questions, etc. Stay tuned for more poison prevention week safety information.

Real People. Real Answers.

Steven Marcus, MD, Executive and Medical Director
Bruce Ruck, Pharm.D., Director, Drug Information and Professional Education
New Jersey Poison Information and Education System (NJPIES)