Everything You Need To Know About The Flu

Seasonal influenza, or the flu, is an illness caused by an influenza virus. Symptoms include a fever or chills, head and body aches, fatigue, sore throat, cough, headache, runny nose, diarrhea, and vomiting. Most people who get the flu need to spend time in bed resting and many feel sick for a week or two.

Statistics show that the flu kills about 36,000 Americans each year. If you get the flu, there are prescription antiviral drugs that can treat your illness, if they are prescribed early enough. Early treatment is especially important for those who have a higher complication risk.

How the Flu Spreads

Flu viruses spread through the air when infected people cough, sneeze, or talk. They can also be transmitted when uninfected people touch a contaminated surface and then touch their mouth, eyes, or nose. Unfortunately, people with the flu may be contagious the day before they develop symptoms and five to seven days after becoming sick.

Protect Yourself with a Flu Vaccine

The best way to avoid the flu is to get vaccinated. A flu shot containing a “dead” virus can be given by injection. Another option is a nasal-spray vaccine containing “live” but weakened flu viruses that have lost their disease-causing capacity.

Everyone is at risk for the flu and should be vaccinated. Check with your doctor before you or your child get vaccinated to see which form of the vaccine is right for you.

Another Year, Another Strain of Flu

The flu vaccine causes your body to makes antibodies that provide immunity against the real virus. These antibodies remain at high levels for only six to nine months. These waning antibody levels are one reason why you need to be revaccinated each year. In addition, the flu virus mutates rapidly, and the vaccine must be modified yearly to be effective against the most recent strains.

Tips for Fending off the Flu

Besides getting the flu vaccine as soon as it is available in your area, there are a few other things you can do to protect yourself from infection:

  • Clean your hands frequently, especially after using a tissue or touching your mask... Use alcohol sanitizer or wash hands with soap and water.
  • At work, keep an alcohol-based hand sanitizer on your desk. Keep your work surface clean and wipe down your desk, keyboard, mouse, telephone, and other objects you frequently touch with disinfectant. Avoid borrowing coworkers’ office supplies or phone.
  • Routinely clean frequently touched objects and surfaces, including doorknobs, keyboards, and phones—to help remove germs.

  • Don’t go to work sick. You don’t want to be responsible for infecting everyone! Stay at home until at least 24 hours after you no longer have a temperature of 100 degrees Fahrenheit (37.7 degrees Celsius) or higher without the use of aspirin or other fever-reducing medicines.

  • Keep your child at home if he or she gets the flu. The Center for Disease Control recommends that children stay home for at least 24 hours after the fever is gone.

  • Cover your nose and mouth, cough into your sleeve or upper arm. In a pinch, cough into a tissue and throw it in the trash.

  • Try not to let your home or workplace get too dry. The flu bug thrives in dry nasal and oral passages, which is one reason flu epidemics occur in dry winter months. By keeping your nasal passages and mouth moist, your body will be better able to flush out the flu bug.