Flu activity across the country continues to increase. \u00a0 According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), cases of the flu rose sharply over the last two weeks, \u00a0and are twice as high as the same time period last year. \u00a0As of the first week in January (the most recent data available), 49 states had widespread flu activity, including Connecticut. \u00a0All eight counties in the state are experiencing flu, with Hartford and Fairfield counties reporting the highest number of cases. Characterized by the sudden onset of symptoms such as fever or chills, cough, sore throat, runny nose, headaches, and body aches, the flu is not something to take lightly. If not treated promptly, it can result in complications, including pneumonia and bronchitis, and may lead to hospitalization, even for otherwise healthy people. What can you do to protect yourself? \u201cThe flu shot, while not foolproof, is still your best defense,\u201d says April Rodr\u00edguez, RN, Community Health Nurse Manager for RVNA.\u00a0 While it\u2019s true that you may still come down with the flu even after getting the shot, it doesn\u2019t mean that there\u2019s no benefit.\u00a0 Having the vaccine can result in milder symptoms and a shorter duration of illness if you do get sick.\u00a0 Plus, having the flu shot can also help protect those around you who are more vulnerable, such as small children and the elderly. Beyond the flu shot, RVNA nurses recommend other common-sense steps to keep yourself and those around you healthy: \u00a0 Try to avoid close contact with sick people. Wash your hands\u00a0often with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth without washing your hands first. This is a common way germs are spread. Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs like the flu. Get plenty of rest and eat a healthy diet. If you come down with flu-like symptoms, seek medical attention and be careful around others. You can spread it for as long as a week after you\u2019re sick. \u00a0To help contain the spread, follow these tips: Limit your contact with other people as much as possible while you\u2019re sick. Stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone (except to get medical care). Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it and wash your hands immediately. \u00a0Even better, cough or sneeze into your elbow, not your hands. The good news is that there\u2019s still time to get a flu shot and benefit from the protection it provides. RVNA offers flu shots at its Center for Exceptional Care, 27 Governor Street in Ridgefield. \u00a0For more information or to schedule an appointment, call 203-438-5555, or visit www.ridgefieldvna.org.