What is influenza?
Influenza (the flue) is highly contagious and common respiratory illness, caused by a group of viruses which can be mild to severe in nature. Sometimes could lead to serious complications or even death. Flu kills thousands around the world each year.
“Seasonal influenza” refers to the influenza outbreaks that usually occur each winter. Three families of flue are responsible for seasonal flu (A/H1N1, A/H3N2 and influenza B), however the strains constantly mutate. This means people can be infected more than once, and vaccines need to be updated, regularly!
Flue virus spreads from person to person through respiratory droplets. These droplets are expelled when an infected person (IP) cough, sneezes or talks. If these droplets get into a healthy person’s eyes, nose or mouth, that person can be infected with the virus. People are contagious (able to spread the infection), about a day before symptoms develop, and remain contagious for about five to seven days after becoming sick. Children may remain contagious for a longer period.
Typical symptoms start suddenly, and include fever (often high), body aches, headache, tiredness, cough and sometimes a sore throat, runny nose, vomiting and diarrhea. Most people feel better within a week, but the tiredness and cough can last for two weeks or longer. In some cases, influenza can cause serious complications.
People at higher risk of developing complications include: young children (under 2 years old), older adults (over 64 years old), pregnant women, and people with chronic medical conditions (including asthma, diabetes, heart conditions, immunodeficiency).
Most people recover without specific treatment – over the counter fever and pain medications may be used to relieve symptoms. Antiviral medications are prescribed for people at higher risk of severe disease, or those whose illness get progressively worse. Antiviral are most effective when given soon after symptoms start, so it is especially important for people at higher risk of severe illness to see a doctor promptly.
Prevention (is better than cure)
Prevention is only through vaccination and proper hygiene practice.
Vaccination is recommended for:
- anyone above 6 months old.
- those of high risk for severe infections.
- Pregnant women whom in the second or third trimester. Vaccination is considered safe throughout pregnancy, but most medical providers usually avoid vaccinating women during the first trimester.
- Wash your hands frequently.
- Hand sanitizer can be used when soap and water aren’t readily available.
- Avoid touching your face
- Keep your distance from people who are obviously sick.
ALWAYS SEEK MEDICAL ATTENTION IF YOUR SYMPTOMS WORSEN!