Preparing for Flu Season

Preparing for Flu Season
By Gary Monk
Posted by webmaster on 12/08/2011

By Gary Monk

I’ll bet you are noticing the many signs around announcing “Flu Shots Available.” It’s that time of year and it is
probably a good idea to give some thought to getting vaccinated.

The Seriousness and Severity of Seasonal Flu

Influenza, sometimes referred to as “seasonal flu” or simply “the flu,” is a contagious respiratory illness caused
by influenza viruses.

In the United States, on average 5% to 20% of the population gets the flu and more than 200,000 people are
hospitalized from seasonal flu-related complications. Over a period of 30 years, between 1976 and 2006,
estimates of flu-associated deaths in the United States range from a low of about 3,000 to a high of about
49,000 people.

Flu seasons are unpredictable and their severity can vary widely from one season to the next depending on
many things, including:

what flu viruses are spreading,
how much flu vaccine is available
when vaccine is available
how many people get vaccinated, and how well the flu vaccine is matched to flu viruses that are causing


Flu Symptoms and Common Complications

As noted, the flu is different from a cold. The flu usually comes on suddenly. People who have the flu often feel
some or all of these symptoms:

Fever or feeling feverish/chills (Note: not everyone with the flu will have a fever.)
Sore throat
Runny or stuffy nose
Muscle or body aches
Fatigue (tiredness)
Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults.

Unlike many other viral respiratory infections, such as the common cold, the flu can cause severe illness and
life-threatening complications in many people.

Pneumonia, bronchitis, and sinus and ear infections are three examples of complications from flu. The flu can
make chronic health problems worse. People with asthma may experience asthma attacks while they have the flu,
and people with chronic congestive heart failure may have worsening of this condition that is triggered by the flu.

Groups at higher risk of developing influenza-related complications:

People 50 years of age and older
Children 6 months-18 years of age
Pregnant women
People of any age with certain chronic medical conditions, such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary

disease (COPD), heart disease, diabetes, among others

Residents of long-term care facilities and nursing homes

Contagion: How the Flu is Spread

Most experts believe that flu viruses spread mainly by droplets made when people with flu cough, sneeze or talk.
These droplets can land 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 mouth, eyes or possibly
their nose.

You may be able to pass on the flu to someone else before you know you are sick, as well as while you are sick.
Most healthy adults may be able to infect others beginning 1 day before symptoms develop and up to 5 to 7
days after becoming sick. Some people, especially young children and people with weakened immune systems,
might be able to infect others for an even longer time.

Flu Shots

Even healthy people need a seasonal flu vaccination to help stay healthy and to help prevent the spread of
seasonal flu to others.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone 6 months of age and older

be immunized every year. You should get a seasonal flu shot as soon as it becomes available in the late summer
or early fall.

A new seasonal flu vaccine is developed each year based on research by the CDC and health organizations
worldwide. The 2011-2012 seasonal flu vaccine will protect against the three influenza viruses that research
indicates will be most common during the flu season. This includes an influenza A (H1N1) virus, a second
influenza A (H3N2) virus, and an influenza B virus.

Even if you didn’t get vaccinated early in the influenza season, immunization into the spring or as long as the
influenza seasonal flu virus is in circulation can be beneficial. This is because in many seasons, influenza
activity doesn’t peak until winter or early spring. In fact, as long as influenza viruses are in circulation, it’s a
good idea to get a flu shot. Immunity sets in about two weeks after vaccination.

Other smart ways to prevent the flu and the common cold are:

Practice good hand hygiene by washing your hands regularly
Avoid close contact or shaking hands with people who have colds or other upper respiratory infections

In closing, give serious consideration to getting a seasonal flu vaccination. It could keep healthy not only you,
but also those close to you.

(The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provided much of the information cited in this article.
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