Influenza, or “The Flu” ... It’s Here!

Influenza, or “The Flu” ... It’s Here!


This year, the most common strain of the flu has been H1N1, a strain of the flu which we first saw as a pandemic in 2009. This strain of the flu was included in this year’s flu vaccine. The CDC estimates that flu vaccination prevented 6.6 million illnesses last year, 3.2 million doctor visits and at least 79,000 hospitalizations. Flu vaccines are recommended for everyone 6 months and older, especially pregnant women and those at high risk of complications, including the elderly, children younger than 5 years and those with underlying medical conditions such as asthma or diabetes.

Key facts about “The Flu”

  • The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses that infect the nose, throat, and lungs. It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to
    death. The best way to prevent the flu is by getting a flu vaccine each year.
  • People who have the flu often feel some or all of these signs and symptoms: Fever or
    feeling feverish/chills, Cough, sore throat, Runny or stuffy nose, Muscle or body aches, Headaches, Fatigue (very tired). Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults. It’s important to note that not everyone with flu will have a fever.
  • 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.
  • The flu is contagious! 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 10 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 is unpredictable and how severe it is 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 illness.
  • Certain people are at greater risk for serious complications if they get the flu. This includes older people, young children, pregnant women and people with certain health conditions (such as asthma, diabetes, or heart disease), and persons who live in facilities like nursing homes.
  • Flu seasons are unpredictable and can be severe. 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.
  • Complications of flu can include bacterial pneumonia, ear infections, sinus infections,
    dehydration, and worsening of chronic medical conditions, such as congestive heart failure, asthma, or diabetes
  • Antiviral medications are a good treatment if you do get sick with the flu. However, for antivirals to be helpful, they should be started within 48 hours of when symptoms appear.

For more information regarding the Flu, visit the CDC flu fact sheet. If you think you have the flu, call the Health Center for an appointment. During flu season, take precautions to keep yourself healthy by washing your hands frequently, eating right and getting enough rest. You also can help decrease the spread of flu by washing your hands frequently, and covering your mouth if you cough or sneeze.