The flu, short for influenza, is a respiratory illness caused by a virus that infects the nose, throat, and lungs. People infected with the virus may have symptoms of cough, sore throat, nasal congestion, headache, body aches, fatigue, and/or fever. Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea as well, although these symptoms are more common in kids. The virus is most likely spread through airborne droplets when infected people cough, sneeze, or talk.
Who should get vaccinated?
Everyone is at risk for becoming infected with the flu. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends everyone over the age of 6 months be vaccinated every year against influenza by the end of October. Particular groups at risk for infection and complications include young children, pregnant women, adults over 65 years old, and people with chronic medical conditions like diabetes, asthma, or heart failure. Complications of the flu include pneumonia, sinus and ear infections, dehydration, worsening of underlying medical conditions, and even death.
The flu vaccine will not make you sick. It is an inactivated (dead) virus and cannot infect you. People who have allergies to eggs or other vaccine ingredients, who have had Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS), and people who are already ill should talk to their doctor before receiving the flu vaccine. The CDC also no longer recommends the flu-mist vaccine due to its questionable effectiveness in the past.
What should I do if I think I have the flu?
See a doctor to run a rapid test in clinic to determine if you have the flu. There are prescription anti-viral medications available that can decrease the length of time you are infected and the severity of your symptoms. A physician can also prescribe these medications to family members to help prevent infection in them as well. Covering your mouth, frequent hand-washing, and wearing a mask are important steps you can take to prevent the spread of infection until you see a doctor, but the best preventive step you can take is to get your flu vaccine!
*Information for this report was gathered from the Center for Disease Control website, www.cdc.gov
The information provided is for general interest only and should not be misconstrued as a diagnosis, prognosis or treatment recommendation. This information does not in any way constitute the practice of medicine, or any other health care profession. Readers are directed to consult their health care provider regarding their specific health situation. Marque Medical is not liable for any action taken by a reader based upon this information.