Let's be clear: No one wants to hear you hack, gag, cough, snort, honk, groan or whine about the flu.  

Not your coworkers, not your classmates, not your family.

Truth be told, probably not even your doctor.

This is flu season. It has been for a while now — and also the time for bad colds, bronchitis, strep, gasteoenteritis and RSV and whatever else may ail you. The flu season has been especially bad (ironic during this centennial year of the Spanish flu epidemic), so keeping your illness to yourself — and not sharing it through each cough's half-million droplets of menacing germs — is especially crucial.

In McLean County, three people have died from flu or flu-related complications since the beginning of the flu season. The Illinois Department of Public Health said flu remains widespread throughout the state, and 617 people statewide have been admitted to hospital ICUs because of it.

This year's vaccines aren't a complete match for this year's flu strain, so more people are getting sick (although, perhaps, for fewer days). The back-and-forth, hot-and-cold weather probably hasn't helped.

The common remedies and preventative measures hold true: Get a flu shot. Get plenty of rest, eat a balanced diet and stay hydrated. Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly. Cover your coughs and sneezes with your arm or a tissue.

Stay home if you're sick. Let's repeat that. Stay home if you're sick.

Stay away from people in hospitals and nursing homes, the elderly, people with compromised immune systems and young children because they are at greater risk of complications from flu. If you are sick but must go out, wear a mask and don't touch anyone. Don't return to work or school until you are fever free for at least 24 hours without vomiting, diarrhea or the use of fever-reducing medicine.

It's easy to oversimplify the flu, but it can eat into employee productivity and classroom learning. The Centers for Disease Control estimates that 3,300 to 49,000 people can die each year from flu when the infection destroys lung tissue and they no longer can breathe effectively.

The 1918 pandemic killed between 20 and 40 million people, more than  during World War I, according to a Stanford University research that called it "the most devastating epidemic in recorded world history."

While the current flu remains "widespread" in Illinois, the numbers are nowhere near those counted during the 2009-2010 flu season when almost 11 percent of state residents were diagnosed with flu, according to IDPH statistics.

If you're the one who's sick, or the one caring for someone who is sick, the numbers don't really matter. That's why prevention and common sense still are the best ways to fight back.

And, we'll be talking about this all again next year.