What is the flu?
The flu is caused by an influenza virus and 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:
- Fever* or feeling feverish/chills
- Muscle or body aches
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Fatigue (tiredness)
- A sore throat
- A 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 may become moderately or even severely ill, the individuals most likely to experience a severe case would be young children, adults aged 65 years and older with a compromised immune system, to begin with may potentially require hospitalization. For example, individuals who are afflicted with asthma may experience a worsening of this condition triggered by the 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?
The influenza viruses are airborne, meaning when someone with the infection coughs, sneezes or talks the droplets travel through the air. 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.
The contagious stage of the illness is approximately a day before symptoms first appear for a duration of 5 to 10 days after the symptoms appearing. It needs to be understood that individuals with a weakened immune system are most generally will be contagious for a longer period of time.
Although you develop antibodies against flu viruses you’ve encountered in the past through direct exposure or through a vaccine the antibodies present cannot protect you from new influenza subtypes. These subtypes have a very different immunological from what you have 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 steps to stop the spread of germs that can cause the flu and other illnesses:
- Avoid close contact with sick people.
- Stay home from work or school if you get sick. Staying home (except to go to the doctor) for at least 24 hours after your fever is 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.
- Gather supplies, like extra food, water, and medicine.
- Make an emergency plan for your Family.
- Write down important health information for each member of your family. health information sheet [PDF – 29 KB]
- Make a list of emergency contact information. Include the phone numbers for your local hospital, doctor, school, and other emergency contacts. family emergency plan [PDF – 520 KB].
- Start gathering emergency supplies and put them in a safe place. Keep enough water, food, medicine, and other supplies to last 2 weeks. emergency supply kit-check list [PDF – 348 KB]
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.
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