The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses that infect the nose, throat and lungs. It can cause mild to severe illness and at times can lead to death. The best way to prevent the flu is by getting a flu vaccine each year. <!–split–>
Signs and Symptoms
Flu may cause some or all of these signs and symptoms:
- Fever or feeling feverish, chills
- Cough and sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Headaches and muscle or body aches
- Fatigue/feeling very tired
- Vomiting/diarrhea (more common in kids than adults)
How Flu Spreads
Most experts believe that flu viruses spread mainly by droplets made when people with flu cough, sneeze, or talk. These droplets can and in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby. Less often a person might also get flu by touching a surface or object that has flu virus on it and then touching their own face, mouth, eyes, or nose.
Period of Contagion
Fancy words for ”when you can spread your flu germs to others”. You may be able to pass on the flu to someone else before you even realize you’re infected! Most healthy adults are able to infect others beginning one day before developing symptoms and up to 7 days after becoming sick. Some folks especially young children (who don’t control their germ-sharing activities) might be able to infect others for even longer.
How Serious is the Flu?
Flu is unpredictable and the severity of symptom will vary from season to season depending on
- What strains of flu viruses are spreading
- How much flu vaccine is available
- How many people get vaccinated
- How well the vaccine matches the flu viruses that are causing illness in that season
Some people are at greater risk for the most serious complication of the flu including older adults, young children, pregnant women and people with serious chronic health conditions. Complications can include bacterial pneumonia, ear infections, sinus infections, dehydration and worsening of chronic medical conditions.
The single best way to prevent getting the flu is to get a flu vaccine each season. The vaccine does not provide instant protection. It takes 2-3 weeks for a person’s immune system to react to the vaccine, producing a protective level of antibodies. The flu vaccine cannot protect against other flu-like illnesses caused by non-influenza viruses. The seasonal flu vaccine is formulated with the 3 flu viruses that scientists from the CDC believe will be the most likely to cause epidemics that year. Vaccinations usually begin in September or as soon as the vaccine becomes available and continues into Spring. While flu season can begin as early as October, it usually peaks in January, February and March. Summer flu infections are also possible although less likely.
The Covid-19 Virus also presents with “cold” or flu like symptoms. This virus also continues to evolve and mutate. While it is recommended for almost everyone to be vaccinated it is a personal choice just like the flu vaccine. Protect yourself and your loved ones as much as possible. Wear a mask when out in public places if you feel more comfortable. Wash your hands and get plenty of rest, exercise and healthy foods.