What Is Seasonal Influenza?
Influenza, commonly known as the flu, is a respiratory disease caused by a virus. Symptoms are usually sudden and include fever, dry cough (that may last more than two weeks), headache, myalgia (severe fatigue) and sore throat. In children, it is also common for symptoms to include nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Flu season usually lasts from September to May, peaking in January.
CDC recommends use of injectable influenza vaccines (including inactivated influenza vaccines and recombinant influenza vaccines) and is again recommending the nasal spray flu vaccine (live attenuated influenza vaccine (LAIV) as an option. The nasal spray is approved for use in non-pregnant individuals, 2 years through 49 years of age. There is a precaution against the use of LAIV for people with certain underlying medical conditions so always be sure to check with your doctor first.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is encourages people to get their flu shot by October during flu season.
Preventative actions to stop the spread of germs:
- Avoid close contact with sick people.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
- Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated.
- Cover your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze.
- Wash your hands frequently with soap and water.
Antibiotics are not an effective treatment because the flue is caused by a virus not a bacteria. Antivirals can be used to manage the flu but they must be started within 48 hours of symptom onset. Relief from symptoms can often be achieved through rest and the use of over the counter medications such as decongestants and fever reducers. Complications are rare in young health adults, but elderly and immune compromised persons have an increased risk for complications such as pneumonia.
The flu is the most commonly spread when an infected person coughs or sneezes, releasing aerosolized droplets containing viral particles. When the viral particles are inhaled or encounter the nose, throat or lungs, the opportunity for disease occurs. To avoid the spread of disease:
- Sneeze and cough into your elbow and wash your hands frequently.
- Use alcohol based hand sanitizers when a sink is not available.
- When sick, avoid crowds and try to stay home.
- Vaccination remains the best method of prevention.