Don’t Panic! Tips to Avoid the Flu at

CDC-11214-swine-fluThere are few things less sexy in the world than getting the flu. However, one of those things is being annoying and uninformed about the disease. Even with all the expansive swine flu coverage and available information, plenty of people have no idea what to look for when it comes to the flu and how to differentiate it from the common cold.

So, as flu season is truly upon us, a good place to start is Conveniently enough, the US government’s put this site together to inform the public. Not only does it track confirmed cases, but it gives you tools to find vaccine locations and provides FAQs about the flu as well. We’re geeks, people. Being informed is our thing.

Some of the features that are particularly helpful on include a state-by-state drop-down option to localize the site. There are a few helpful graphics, too, that chart the flu’s progress across the US, helping you to access the risk in your area. And, in slick Web 2.0 fashion, includes everything from podcasts to streaming videos, resulting in more information than you can shake a syringe at.

Tips to remember:

Get vaccinated. Really. Seriously? If you’re worried, go get poked. In some cases it’s free or very cheap, and I’ve heard of some employers even paying for their workers to get the shots. There’s no excuse to get one, really, even if you think your chances are low of getting the flu in the first place. Some people seem to have naturally high resistances to the flu, and often don’t bother. Others attract it almost every year. Either way, it’s something to consider.

– There are currently two kinds of flu active this season: the seasonal variety and H1N1, or the swine flu. There are vaccines available for both. But keep in mind that some are age-specific. Various locations may not have, for instance, the vaccine for children on hand. So check ahead.

Common flu symptoms include sore throat, runny nose, headache, body chills, and fatigue. Unlike the common cold, these symptoms typically linger and don’t clear up after a few days. Exhaustion is one of the key symptoms, as it happens early in the flu’s progress. Fever is also important, as colds only rarely exhibit with high fever.

– While deaths from H1N1 are covered extensively in the news, keep in mind that flu–in general–typically proves more fatal in those with pre-existing conditions, the very young, and the very old. So, try not to freak yourself out. Put down The Stand and walk away from Outbreak. Trust me, you’ll feel better. If you’re sick: rest.

Know the facts about how the disease spreads and how it mutates. In April, during the height of the swine flu media frenzy, GAS writer Jimmy Rogers did a piece called Science is Sexy: What is Swine Flu? How Does an Animal Disease Spread to a Human Host? If you’re looking for the science behind influenza, this is a great overview.

– A simple, common-sense approach to hygiene goes a long way. And if you have a fever over 100F, stay away from coworkers and public places. Rest, relax, play some WoW or watch the all of Firefly again. What? It works for me!