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Flu Facts: What You Need to Know To Stay Healthy This Season
About the flu
Influenza (flu) is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. It can cause mild to severe illness. Serious outcomes of flu infection can result in hospitalization or death. Some people, such as older people, young children, and people with certain health conditions, are at high risk for serious flu complications. The best way to prevent the flu is by getting vaccinated each year.
Why do I need to vaccinate if I am healthy
Many people mistakenly believe that if they are relatively healthy, they don’t need a flu shot. But in fact, 4,605 people in the U.S. died from the flu last year. Even if you feel that you may not need the flu shot, it is important to get the vaccine so that you can protect your loved ones or those people whose immune systems are compromised.
Optimal timing for the flu vaccine
A yearly flu vaccine is recommended for everyone 6 months and older. Flu vaccination can reduce flu illnesses and prevent flu-related hospitalizations. Now is a good time to get vaccinated. It takes about two weeks after vaccination for protection to set in.
One should receive the influenza vaccine as soon as the vaccine is available, preferably by October. Flu season is generally between November and April with peaks usually in January or February.
The Flu Mist
New this year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended not using the nasal spray flu vaccine for lack of effectiveness in prior influenza seasons. Parents looking for a new alternative to the traditional vaccine will be disappointed. Although Flublok is an egg-free flu vaccine, made without antibiotics or live flu virus, it is only safe and effective for people 18 and older.
Effectiveness of the Flu Vaccine
This year the flu vaccines have been updated to better match circulating viruses. The upcoming season’s flu vaccine will protect against the influenza viruses that research indicates will be most common during the season. This includes an influenza A (H1N1) virus, an influenza A (H3N2) virus, and one or two influenza B viruses, depending on the flu vaccine.
The trivalent influenza vaccine will contain three virus strains, whereas the quadrivalent influenza vaccine will include four virus strains, providing more protection from becoming infected with the flu. Adults 65 and older will get the more potent version of the vaccine since human immune defenses become weaker with age, which places older people at greater risk of severe illness from influenza.
Symptoms of Flu vs a Cold
The symptoms of flu can include fever or feeling feverish/chills, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches and fatigue (tiredness). Cold symptoms are usually milder than the symptoms of flu. People with colds are more likely to have a runny or stuffy nose. Colds generally do not result in serious health problems.
Because colds and flu share many symptoms, it can be difficult to tell the difference between them based on symptoms alone. Special tests that usually must be done within the first few days of illness can tell if a person has the flu.
The Use of Tamiflu
Tamiful is an antiviral medication that can be used treat influenza infection and reduce duration and severity. It must be started within 48 hours of flu symptoms. If you have already been exposed to the flu, but you don’t have any symptoms, you can take Tamiflu for up to 6 weeks to help prevent you from getting sick.
Other ways to stay healthy during flu season
The flu vaccine is your best option for flu prevention, but there are a number of other ways to avoid contracting and spreading the virus:
- Kill influenza viruses on surfaces using chemical germicides, including chlorine, hydrogen peroxide, detergents (soap), iodophors (iodine-based antiseptics), and alcohols. Human influenza viruses generally can survive on surfaces between 2 and 8 hours.
- Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
- If you are sick with flu-like illness, stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities. 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 after you use it.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol or non-alcohol based hand sanitizer.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth. Germs spread this way.