what is influenza (also called flu)?
Influenza is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. It can cause mild to severe illness. Serious outcomes of flu infection can result in hospitalization or death. The best way to prevent the flu is by getting vaccinated each year (CDC, 2017).
signs and symptoms of influenza
People who have the flu often feel some or all of these signs and symptoms:
· Fever* or feeling feverish/chills
· Sore throat
· Runny or stuffy nose
· Muscle or body aches
· Fatigue (very tired)
· Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults (CDC, 2017).
*It’s important to note that not everyone with flu will have a fever.
how does flu spread?
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, nose or possibly their eyes (CDC, 2017).
period of contagiousness
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. Although people with the flu are most contagious in the first 3-4 days after their illness begins, some otherwise healthy adults may be able to infect others beginning 1 day before symptoms develop and up to 5 to 7 days after becoming sick. Some people, especially young children and people with weakened immune systems, might be able to infect others with flu viruses for an even longer time (CDC, 2017).
how serious is the flu?
Flu illness can vary from mild to severe. While the flu can be serious even in people who are otherwise healthy, it can be especially dangerous for young children and children of any age who have certain long term health conditions, including asthma (even mild or controlled), neurological and neuro-developmental conditions, chronic lung disease, heart disease, blood disorders, endocrine disorders (such as diabetes), kidney, liver, and metabolic disorders, and weakened immune systems due to disease or medication. Children with these conditions and children who are receiving long-term aspirin therapy can have more severe illness from the flu (CDC, 2015).
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 can result in hospitalization and sometimes death. Pneumonia, bronchitis, sinus infections and ear infections are examples of flu-related complications. The flu also can 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 triggered by flu (CDC, 2017)