What Is the Flu?
Each winter, millions of people suffer from the flu, which is a highly contagious infection. It spreads easily from person to person, mainly when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Viruses that infect the nose, throat, and lungs cause the flu, which is the short name for influenza. The illness is usually a mild disease in healthy children, young adults, and middle-aged people. However, it can be life threatening in older adults and in people of any age who have chronic illnesses such as diabetes or heart, lung, or kidney diseases.
The flu is a respiratory infection caused by a variety of flu viruses. It differs in several ways from the common cold, which is a respiratory infection that is also caused by viruses. For example, people with colds rarely get fevers, headaches, or suffer from the extreme exhaustion that the flu viruses can cause.
What types of Flu are there?
The first flu virus was identified in the 1930s. Since then, scientists have classified three types of flu viruses based upon their protein composition. The types of flu virus include types A, B, and C. Type A viruses are found in many kinds of animals, including:
Type B virus broadly circulates in humans. Type C has been found in humans, pigs, and dogs. Type C causes mild respiratory infections, but does not spark epidemics.
Type A influence is the most frightening of the three flu types. It is believed to be responsible for the global outbreaks of 1918, 1957, and 1968.
What are the first signs of the Flu
Common flu symptoms start quickly and can include:
Runny or stuffy nose
Typically, the fever will begin to decline on the second or third day of the illness.
Is the Flu contagious?
Outbreaks usually begin suddenly and occurs mainly in the late fall and winter. The flu spreads through communities, creating an epidemic. During the epidemic, the number of cases peaks in about 3 weeks and subsidies after another 3 or 4 weeks. Half of the population of a community may be affected. Schools are an excellent place for flu viruses to attack and spread. Therefore, families with school-age children have more infections than other families, with an average of one-third of the family members becoming infected each year.
When is the Flu season?
Approximately 10 percent to 20 percent of Americans come down with the Flu between November and March (the season for this illness).
Besides the rapid start of the outbreaks and the large numbers of people affected, the flu is an important disease because it can cause serious complications. Most people who get it will get better within a week, although they may have a lingering cough and tire easily for a while longer. However, for elderly people, newborn babies, and people with certain chronic illnesses, the flu and its complications can be dangerous.
How does the Flu spread?
You can get the flu if someone around you who has it coughs or sneezes. Or, you can get it simply by touching a surface, like a telephone or doorknob, that has been contaminated by someone who has the flu. The viruses can pass through the air and enter your body through your nose or mouth, or if you've touched a contaminated surface, they can pass from your hand to your nose or mouth. You are at greatest risk of getting infected in highly populated areas, such as in crowded living conditions and in schools.
Why do I get the Flu?
It is estimated that 10 percent to 20 percent of Americans come down with the flu during each flu season, which typically lasts from November to March. Children are 2 to 3 times more likely than adults to get sick with the flu, and children frequently spread the virus to others. Although most people recover from the illness, it is estimated that in the United States more than 100,000 people are hospitalized and about 36,000 people die from this illness and its complications every year.
Medication for the Flu
Although the flu vaccine is the best flu prevention method, antiviral flu medicine is also available by prescription. Flu medicines include:
Tamiflu, Flumadine and Symmetrel may be used by adults and children who are 1 year of age and older. The drugs can be used for both prevention and to reduce the duration of fever and other flu symptoms.
Tips on how to prevent the Flu
A flu shot can greatly lower your chances of getting the flu. In fact, most illnesses and deaths that are caused by the flu could have been preceded by a yearly flu shot. Medicare covers the cost, and many private health insurance plans also pay for the flu shot. You can get a flu shot at:
Your doctor's office
Your local health department
Other healthcare providers.
It is important to note that there are no vaccines that will give you complete protection, and the flu shot is no exception. In older people and those with certain chronic illnesses, the flu shot is often less effective in preventing the flu. However, the flu shot will help to reduce associated symptoms and the risk of serious illness and death.
Key information about the flu includes:
The flu can be quite dangerous for people who are 65 years of age and older
It can be invented
Each fall, a flu shot is necessary for people in high-risk groups
The shot is covered by Medicare
The shot is safe and it can not cause the flu
The flu shot and the pneumococcal vaccine can be given at the same time.