What is the Flu?
Influenza, aptly nicknamed the flu, is a highly contagious respiratory illness caused by viruses that can infect the nose, throat, and even the lungs. The flu can range from very mild to severe, and can some times even result in death. One of the best ways to avoid the flu is to get a flu vaccine yearly.
What are Symptoms of the Flu?
The flu will usually come on suddenly and can rapidly develop into a severe illness. These are some symptoms those infected with the flu may experience:
- Sore throat
- Body aches
- Stuffy or runny nose
- Diarrhea or vomiting
*important note: not everyone who is infected with influenza will experience fever
How Does the Flu Spread?
The most common way that the flu can spread is through small droplets containing the virus made when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks. These droplets can easily land on another nearby person’s mouth, nose, or face, which can easily cause infection. Another less often way the flu can spread is through touching objects that have live viruses on them, and in turn touching their eyes, mouth, or nose.
What is the Period of Contagiousness?
Not only can you easily spread the flu when you are actively sick, but also before infection can occur.
- The most contagious period of an infected person is within the first 3-4 days of their sickness.
- Relatively healthy adults can pass the virus about 1 day before their symptoms develop, and up to 5-7 days after infection.
- Those with weaker immune systems, like small children and the elderly, are able to spread infection for longer periods of time.
When do Symptoms Begin?
Once a person is exposed to the influenza virus, the onset of symptoms will generally begin in about 2 days, but the range is 1-4 days.
Complications of the Flu
Along with contracting the flu, those infected are at risk for more illnesses. These can include bacterial pneumonia, sinus infections, ear infections, and the possible worsening of any preexisting chronic conditions, including asthma, diabetes, and congestive heart failure.
Who is at Risk?
Everyone is at risk for infection. However, some are more vulnerable than others. Those with weaker immune systems, such as small children, the elderly (65+ years), and pregnant women. Those with chronic conditions are also at a higher risk for infection.
The most important step in prevention is to get vaccinated every year. As the virus evolves, it is important to get an updated vaccine each year to protect yourself from the seasonal virus. We also recommend to distance yourself from infected persons and practice good hand hygiene. It is also important to refrain from touching your eyes, mouth, nose, and face in general.