Understanding: Seasonal Flu

What is a flu pandemic?

The flu is caused by an influenza virus is a contagious respiratory illness which spreads easily making many people sick around the world. According to the Mayo Clinic, influenza is a viral infection that attacks your respiratory system which infects the nose, throat, and lungs.  Its effect can cause mild to severe illness and has the potential to lead to death.

The flu is different from a cold and usually comes on suddenly. You may have some or all of the following symptoms:

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  • Fever* or feeling feverish/chills
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Fatigue (tiredness)
  • Headaches
  • Sore throat
  • Cough

* It’s important to note that not everyone with flu will have a fever.

Generally, most who get the influenza virus will recover within several days to less than two weeks, however, some people will develop complications. A wide range of complications can be caused by influenza virus infection of the upper respiratory tract (nasal passages, throat) and lower respiratory tract (lungs). While anyone can get sick with flu and become severely ill, some people are more likely to experience severe flu illness are young children, adults aged 65 years and older, pregnant women, and people with certain chronic medical conditions are among those groups of people who are at high risk of serious flu complications, potentially requiring hospitalization. For example, people with asthma may experience asthma attacks while they have the flu, and people with chronic heart disease may experience a worsening of this condition triggered by flu. The Mayo Clinic recommends if you have flu symptoms and are at risk of complications, see your doctor right away.

How is the seasonal flu spread?

Flu viruses travel through the air in droplets when someone with the infection coughs, sneezes or talks. You can inhale the droplets directly, or you can pick up the germs from an object — such as a door handle or an ATM keyboard — and then transferring them to your eyes, nose or mouth.

People with the virus are likely contagious from the day or so before symptoms first appear until about five days after symptoms begin, though sometimes people are contagious for as long as 10 days after symptoms appear. Children and people with weakened immune systems may be contagious for a slightly longer time.

Although you develop antibodies against flu viruses you’ve encountered in the past through direct exposure or through a vaccine the antibodies present can not protect you from new influenza subtypes. They are very different immunologically from what you been exposed to before. Since a flu pandemic is caused by a new virus, the seasonal flu vaccine probably won’t protect you from the flu. One should ask what can I do to prepare for the flu season?

Take Action!

Take steps to stop the spread of germs that can cause the flu and other illnesses:cdc_cough_noLogo

  • Avoid close contact with sick people.
  • Stay home from work or school if you get sick. Stay home (except to go to the doctor) for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone. Your fever should be gone without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.
  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water aren’t available, use a hand sanitizer.
  • Don’t touch your eyes, nose, and mouth. This helps keep germs out of your body.

It’s suggested you prepare for the flu season like you would prepare for any emergency where you may be required to stay home for an extended period of time.

If I have an autoimmune related condition should I get the flu shot?

We recommend you visit our FAQ page where we addressed the impact of vaccines upon the immune system. From there we hope you are able to draw your own conclusion as to the safety of the influenza vaccine.

Article Sources:

“CDC Advisory: Flu Increasing, Be Ready With Antivirals.” Medscape Log In, 28 Dec. 2017, http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/890695.

“Influenza (Flu).” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 5 Oct. 2017, http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/flu/symptoms-causes/syc-20351719.

“Prepare for a Flu Pandemic.” Healthfinder.gov, healthfinder.gov/HealthTopics/Category/everyday-healthy-living/safety/prepare-for-a-flu-pandemic.

“Influenza (Flu).” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 23 May 2016, http://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/disease/complications.htm.

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