Protect yourself from Influenza – Get vaccinated!
By Mary W. Poole
What if Influenza
Influenza (flu) is a serious disease caused by a virus. Influenza can make you feel miserable. Fever, cough, shaking, chills, body aches, and extreme weakness. Most people who get the flu will have mild illness, will not need medical care or antiviral drugs, and will recover in less than two weeks. Some people however, are more likely to get flu complications that result in being hospitalized and occasionally result in death. Pneumonia, bronchitis, sinus infections and ear infections are examples are examples of flu-related complications. The flu can also make chronic health problems worse. For example, people with asthma may experience asthma attacks while they have the flu, and people with chronic congestive heart failure may experience a worsening of this condition that is triggered by the flu.
How does the flu spread?
You can catch influenza from people who cough, sneeze, or even just talk around you. It is very contagious. The CDC recommends a three-step approach to fighting influenza. The first and most important step is to get a flu vaccination each year. But if you get the flu, there are prescription antiviral drugs that can treat your illness. Early treatment is especially important for the elderly, the very young, people with certain chronic health conditions, and pregnant women. Finally, everyday preventive actions may slow the spread of germs that cause respiratory (nose, throat, and lungs) illnesses, like flu.
Flu viruses are thought to spread mainly from person to person through droplets made when people with flu cough, sneeze, or talk. Flu viruses also may spread when people touch something with fly virus on it and then touch their mouth, eyes, or nose. People infected with flu may be able to infect others beginning day 1 before symptoms develop and up to 5-7 days after becoming sick. That means you may be able to spread the flu to someone else before you know you are sick.
What are everyday preventive actions?
Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
If you or your child gets sick with flu-like illness, sty home for at least 24 hours after the fever is gone except to get medical care.
While sick, limit contact with others as much as possible to keep from infecting them.
Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.
Wash your hands often with soap and water. If not available, use alcohol-based hand rub.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
Clean and disinfect surfaces and object that may be contaminated with germs.
Who is at High Risk for Developing Flu-Related Complications?
Children younger than 5, but especially children younger than 2 years old
Adults 65 years of age and older
Pregnant women and women up to two weeks post-partum
Residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities
Different flu shots are approved for people of different ages. There are flu shots that are approved for use in people as young as 6 months of age and up. Flu shots are approved for use inn pregnant women and people with chronic health conditions. Talk to your doctor or other health care professional if you have any questions regarding which flu vaccine options are the best for you and your family.
For more information, visit www.cdd.gov/flu or call 800-CDC-INFO.A
Mary W. Poole is Director Public Relations at Baptist Hospitals of Southeast Texas