The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. It can cause mild to severe illness and can lead to death. The best way to prevent the flu is by getting a flu vaccination each year.
Flu symptoms include high fever, headache, extreme tiredness, dry cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, and muscles aches. Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea may also occur in children, but rarely in adults.
Complications of the flu include ear and sinus infections, bacterial pneumonia, dehydration, and worsening of health problems (such as congestive heart failure/diabetes). More than 200,000 people are hospitalized from flu complications and about 36,000 people die from the flu. Older people, young children, and people with chronic (long term) health conditions are at higher risk for complications.
Flu spreads from person to person through coughing and sneezing from someone infected with the flu. The flu virus can be picked up on the hands from objects and then infect a person when they touch their face. This is why washing hands frequently is important.
Prevention of the flu includes:
getting the flu shot
washing your hands often
not touching your face, and
avoiding people who are ill.
If you are ill, stay home-don’t go to work/school or run errands. This is one time you don’t want to share!
The flu vaccine is the best way to prevent and to protect people from the flu! Anyone who wants to reduce the chance of getting the flu can get vaccinated. Children between six months to five years of age, pregnant women, people 50 years and older, people with certain chronic medical conditions, and people who live in long-term care facilities should be vaccinated every year. People who live with or care for someone who is pregnant, people with chronic medical conditions, living in long-term care facilities, or infants under six months of age should also be vaccinated yearly, as should health care workers. The flu shot will only protect against influenza viruses and not all viruses that cause flu like symptoms. The flu shot does not cause the flu; it takes two weeks to form immunity from the shot. If a person is exposed during that time period, it is possible to get the flu. The best time to get the flu shot is October or November; but December and January or later is not too late. The flu season doesn’t peak until sometime between January and March. Protect yourself and others -get the flu shot and wash those hands! Reference: www.cdc.gov/flu/keyfacts.htm.
Submitted by Karol Clement, RN
Erie County Department of Health
This information is distributed by Erie County Department of Health, 606 W. 2nd Street, Erie, PA 16507, 814-451-6700, www.ecdh.org