Influenza or carbon monoxide poisoning? Be aware, EPA says

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The effects of carbon monoxide poisoning are similar to symptoms of the flu. Seniors should be on their guard against both this season, the Environmental Protection Agency warns in a recently released fact sheet.

It is very easy to confuse carbon monoxide poisoning with the flu, EPA officials say. To help educate the public, especially more vulnerable seniors, the EPA unveiled "I CAN B," an acronym to help people remember steps they can take to prevent poisoning. According to the EPA, people should: (I) Install carbon monoxide alarms near sleeping areas, ( C) check heating systems and fuel-burning appliances annually, (A) avoid the use of non-vented combustion appliances, (N) never burn fuels indoors, and (B) be attentive to possible symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning.

An illness could be the result of carbon monoxide poisoning if: symptoms decrease when someone is away from the home; more than one person in the household falls ill at the same time; pets also exhibit symptoms; or some flu symptoms, such as generalized aching, low-grade fever, or swollen lymph nodes, do not present themselves. Carbon monoxide poisoning is responsible for 500 deaths and 15,000 hospitalizations every year. Influenza kills up to 36,000 seniors every year.

For more information on carbon monoxide poisoning and influenza, visit http://www.epa.gov/aging/resources/factsheets/pcmp/index.htm.