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6 tips to avoid catching and spreading the flu
How to avoid missed work and sniffles this flu season. - photo by Kaylee DeWitt
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the country has been hit especially hard with the flu. Nearly every part of the continental U.S. has been affected.

Influenza, or the flu, is a contagious viral illness that can cause headaches, fever, chills, fatigue, coughing, runny nose and sore throat, according to the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases.

And if you are one of the lucky ones who haven't been sidelined by the flu, here are a few tips from the CDC, the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases, Healthline, The New York Times, ABC News and other sources to keep you healthy until this especially bad sick season passes:

Get a flu shot every year. The CDC says getting vaccinated is the most important step to avoiding the flu, and everyone older than 6 months should get the shot. Those at high risk, such as children, people over 65 years old, those with health complications and who work or live in nursing homes have a higher need to get the vaccine.

Cough and sneeze into your elbow to avoid the spread of germs. suggests covering your nose with a tissue when you sneeze. The flu is spread through moisture droplets, which can end up in the air or on your hands after you sneeze or talk.

Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Germs are spread when people touch an infected surface and then transfer those germs to the face where they can enter through the eyes, nose and mouth. Therefore, frequent hand washing also helps to decrease your chances of getting sick.

Keep your immune system healthy. Eating a nutritious diet, staying hydrated, exercising, getting enough sleep and frequent hand washing all contribute to a healthy immune system.

Disinfect surfaces. Use a disinfectant cleaner or a bleach solution to kill flu germs on commonly touched surfaces rather than just moving germs around with soap and water, the New York State Department of Health says. Flu germs can live for two to eight hours on hard surfaces. Remote controls and phones are commonly touched objects that are rarely cleaned and can host flu germs.

Avoid crowded places, if possible, and close contact with those who have the flu. Even doctors offices, often crowded with sick patients, should be avoided unless you have a serious case of the flu. The CDC advises that people sick with the flu stay home until symptoms are gone for 24 hours.