Keep a Kleenex box near, flu season is in session.
In Butler County, there have been 246 confirmed cases of the flu, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Health website, which monitors influenza activity throughout the year.
Take steps in the season of sneezes to prevent contracting the virus.
In the 2017-18 flu season, 1,514 cases were recorded, according to the department’s website.
The flu is a virus and respiratory illness that persons of any age can catch, said Chris Cassioli, a nurse practitioner for the Jean B. Purvis Community Health Center of Butler County.
Often, symptoms are like that of a cold, but more exaggerated, Cassioli said. Symptoms can be mild to severe and include cough, fever, sore throat, muscle aches, fatigue and headaches.
During the colder months, flu cases are seen most often, she said.
Viruses do not respond to antibiotics, she said.
Certain people — including older people, young children and pregnant women — are at greater risk for complications, such as pneumonia, she said.
The virus can spread by droplets, such as when people talk, cough or sneeze, Cassioli said. Those droplets could contain the flu virus and spread to someone else. A smaller percentage of the virus can live on objects that the person touches.
The best way to prevent influenza is to get a flu vaccination every year, she said.
Steps to reduce the risk of infection include: avoid touching the eyes, nose and mouth because germs spread this way; cover the nose and mouth with a tissue when coughing and sneezing; after using a tissue, throw it in the trash; wash hands often with soap and water, but if soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub; and clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“If you don’t get a flu shot, stay out of crowds where you might get exposed,” Cassioli said.