Influenza or “flu” is a respiratory infection caused by viruses. Seasonal flu occurs yearly—mainly in late fall and winter. Flu viruses are highly contagious, and they can easily mutate, or change, into a new strain. If people have little or no immunity to a new strain, the virus can spread quickly and cause a severe flu epidemic or worldwide pandemic.
Steps you can take
1. Protect your health
Get a flu shot every season—it’s recommended for almost everyone six months and older. Eat nutritious foods, exercise, get enough sleep and don’t smoke. Wash hands often with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand cleaner. Avoid close contact with sick people.
2. Know the symptoms
Flu is characterized by fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, head or body aches, chills and fatigue.
3. Plan for care
Know how you will care for children if you are ill or if schools or child care are closed. Plan how you can care for elderly family members or neighbors who might need help.
4. Be prepared to stay at home
Keep at least two weeks' worth of food, medications and other staples on hand including toilet paper, tissues, face masks, toothpaste, disposable plates and cups, soap and cleaners, bleach and garbage bags. Plan things for kids to do to stay entertained.
5. Know where to go for up-to-date information
Keep these phone numbers and websites on hand to get the most up-to-date information:
- Dakota County Public Health Department: 651-554-6100
- Minnesota Department of Health: 651-201-5000, www.health.state.mn.us
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: 1-800-CDC-INFO (1-800-232-4636)
- American Red Cross: 612-871-7676, www.redcrosstc.org
6. Stay informed
Turn on local television or radio broadcasts to hear official news and next steps.
Dakota County’s role in a flu pandemic
Dakota County provides information and resources to help you and your family prepare for a pandemic flu outbreak. Dakota County also works with federal, state, and local officials to plan and coordinate responses to a pandemic by training and educating healthcare providers, stockpiling medical supplies and organizing special flu shot clinics.
Dakota County partners with local communities to provide the Dakota Communications Center with information which it distributes through the Emergency Alert Program notification system and provides 911 assistance.