Simple ways to help keep your kids from getting the flu

By tomorrow, all Bay Area students will be back in class. With that comes crowds of kids passing around germs.

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- By tomorrow, all bay area students will be back in class.  With that comes crowds of kids passing around germs.

Right now, that can be dangerous!

The CDC is reporting the flu is now widespread in just about every state. Since the beginning of October, 13 children have died and about 4,000 people have been hospitalized because of the flu. There can be any number of reasons why the flu is so widespread so early. Some point to the vaccine not being as effective because it doesn't match the strain going around.

CDC experts say that's not necessarily the case. There are several strains of flu each season and it can change over time -- it is still important to get that shot. 

Of course, there are hundreds of kids on the same school bus, in the same building, using the same desks, restrooms and lunch tables, touching the same surfaces. If only one of them is sick, it can be easy for that illness to spread quickly.

Parents need to keep their kids home at the first signs of illness and that's when the virus is most contagious.

10News talked to Samantha Spoto, an epidemiologist at the Florida Department of Health in Hillsborough County to find out how long they need to stay home before heading back to class. She says they should not be vomiting, have diarrhea, or a fever for 24 hours before sending them back. 

There are also some things parents can do to help keep their kids from getting sick:
*Get them a flu shot if you haven't already. It can lessen the severity of the virus even if it doesn't totally prevent it
*Wash your hands frequently, especially after touching shared surfaces. 
*Cover your mouth when coughing or sneezing.
*Avoid close contact with others.
*If they are sick keep them home.

Teachers can print out flyers to remind students about the importance of washing hands. They can be found on the Florida Department of Health website.

Finally, if you think you have the flu, you can go to the doctor and get an antiviral medication. That can help you get better, faster.

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