‘Protect yourself:’ Already had the flu? Take steps now to avoid getting it again!

MILWAUKEE -- It's been a brutal flu season. Not only has it been widespread, but it's been deadly. If you've talked with anyone who has had the virus, they'll tell you it can completely wipe you out.

The good news is that the worst of the flu season is over, but more people are being infected by a secondary strain that could lead to a late-season bump.

Teacher Janice Pugh knows first hand how bad this flu season has been. She has 31 students in her classroom -- and the virus has hit them hard.

"It was terrible," Pugh said. "I probably had at least 20 of them sick with that flu. 20 out of the 31."

Shared spaces, common quarters and lots of 'close talkers' -- they are all reasons why this is a problem.

"Once one kid gets it, it seems like they all get sick," Pugh said.

So Pugh has armed her students with disinfecting wipes for computers and the thing she considers the most 'germy' of all, the pencil sharpener.

"That's the worst place to have kids touch because everybody's using the pencil sharpener. So we have to wipe that down too," Pugh said.

Pugh is also pushing the importance of kids covering their mouths.

"I teach them to cough in their elbow in their arm like this, so it won't spread," Pugh said.

Health experts say droplets from a cough or sneeze can go as fast as 25 to 50 miles-per-hour.

Janice Pugh

Pugh thinks maybe that is how she got sick. During her 23 years in the classroom, she figured she could fight anything off. But this year's bug is packing a punch.

"I had flu before, but nothing like this," Pugh said. "It is the worst thing you want to experience."

The flu hit Pugh so hard, she did something out of the ordinary this year.

"When I got that flu, I said I'm going to get this shot. Maybe it'd help me from getting it the second time. Because I heard you can get it a second time," Pugh said.

Dr. Lakshmi Kurre

Pugh heard right. Dr. Lakshmi Kurre said you definitely can get the flu twice -- because there are many different strains of the virus.

"So if you get exposed to one and get sick and have not had the vaccine, you could get exposed to the other and get sick again," Dr. Kurre said.

What is your best defense? The flu shot. But it is March. Isn't it too late? No way, said Dr. Kurre.

"'Cause flu season starts in October and can go on until late April even," Dr. Kurre said.

By now, you may have heard, the vaccine really does not work that well. In fact, the CDC said it is just over 30 percent effective. Dr. Kurre said there are still benefits.

"Exposure to the virus may not necessarily cause any symptoms, to mild symptoms, preventing need for a hospitalization or even pneumonia from developing," Dr. Kurre said.

The doctor recommends the following:

  • Washing your hands for at least 20 seconds
  • Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available
  • Do not re-use tissue and dishes if you are sick.

If you're traveling and want to be really safe...

"I don't think it'd be ridiculous to wear a mask to protect yourself," Dr. Kurre said.

If you're already experiencing flu-like symptoms, Dr. Kurre said prescription Tamiflu works best if taken within 48 to 72 hours of symptoms. Health officials are already working on next year's vaccine after what they saw this year.

In a bad season like this one, the CDC estimates over 30 million in the U.S. have been or will be sick.