Every winter multitudes of people suffer from the flu. It is this chilly season that is best known for frequent outbreaks of influenza, which is also referred to as ‘flu season’. Influenza, or flu, is a viral disease that affects the respiratory system and is easily spread among people. Symptoms of flu vary by individual. While it can be felt as a relatively mild sickness in vibrant, young people, in the elderly it can present very a serious health problem, particularly those with diabetes or heart related conditions. For some it could even lead to loss of life.
The severity of the virus varies year to year. Last year’s flu virus may reemerge once again but this time with a new mutation. Practically what this means is those who beat the illness one year are not immune to future flu outbreaks. This is why the 2015-2016 flu season, and every flu season in the past, are unique.
Some useful flu facts:
- Although the influenza virus affects all ages, it is most rampant among teenagers.
- The viruses that cause flu can be divided into three categories: Influenza A, Influenza B, Influenza C
Influenza A: The most common flu type which affects humans and mammals. The bird flu also is of this type, which is a new entry. There are also the Hong Kong, Asian, Spanish, and Russian flu strains which have already killed millions of people worldwide. Influenza A is responsible for higher death rates every year. You find Influenza A flu viruses in animals such as ducks, chickens, pigs, whales, horses, and seals. The viruses found in humans are strains of H1N1 and H3N2.
Influenza B: Influenza B affects humans and seals which does not spread as easily and causes milder flu infections. Typical flu vaccination can help protect you from type A and B virus strains.
Influenza C: Affects humans as well as pigs. This flu virus is more constant and it generally causes milder respiratory tract symptoms. There is no vaccine for influenza C.
- During any given flu season between 1.5 – 2 million people are infected, among whom 700 – 1700 die. The majority of the fatalities are infants and elderly. The incubation period is typically 1-2 days.
- It’s a serious, and potentially fatal, disease of the nasal cavity, the lungs, and the entire respiratory system but its symptoms first appear to be like those of an ordinary cold. It is, however, important to point out that the two are different illnesses.
- Common symptoms of influenza include the following:
- Extreme fatigue,
- varying body temperatures from hot to cold,
- chills, itchiness & pains of throat,
- body aches and headaches etc.
…but the good news is that these symptoms should be easily identified and diagnosed
- Mild symptoms won’t take long before they become severe. It is highly recommended to visit your doctor as soon as you notice two or more of the mild flu symptoms.
Protecting yourself against flu infection annually requires that one should take the following strict precautions
- Wash hands with soap and water. Our hands are the most used parts of our bodies and they touch almost everything we come in contact with, most of which are dirty to some degree.
- Use disinfectants. Toilets, waste bins, cutting boards, kitchen counters, sinks, and other places around the home should all be disinfected regularly.
- Keep distance from infected people.
- Cover your mouth and nose while coughing and sneezing.
- Use an alcohol-based sanitizer if you are away from home. Cleaning with alcohol helps kill bacteria.
- Don’t touch your face without cleaning your hands thoroughly and ensuring that your hands are germ free. Dirty hands can easily transmit the virus from your hands into your body.
- Get vaccinated. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention highly recommends vaccination for everyone above the age of six months. Those over 60, and those who recently had medical treatment, should also be vaccinated because their immune system may have weakened with age or exposure to many germs and/or viruses during their hospital stay.
Why get vaccinated?
A flu vaccine is the best protection against the flu. With vaccination you are less likely to need treatment for the flu as your immune system produces antibodies that will protect you from the viruses that that particular vaccination contains in a weakened form. Getting the vaccine has been shown to offer substantial other benefits including reducing illness, antibiotic use, time lost from work, hospitalization, and death.
Maybe you are not so worried about the impact of getting the flu, maybe even the thought of burning through a bunch of sick days seems enjoyable, so you’re willing to take your chances. Please consider the health of all those around you, especially the very young and very old who may not be able to receive the vaccination. If you are a carrier, asymptomatic or not, you may infect those around you with the flu. Therefore it is in everyone’s interest that as many people get immunized as possible to protect the least vulnerable among us.
New flu vaccines are released every year to keep up with rapidly adapting flu viruses. Because flu viruses evolve so quickly, last year’s vaccine may not protect you from this year’s viruses. Moreover, antibody levels start to decline over time — another reason to get a flu shot every year.
Who should get the flu vaccine?
Annual influenza vaccinations are recommended for everyone age 6 months or older. Vaccination is especially important for people at high risk of influenza complications, including:
- Pregnant women
- Older adults
- Young children
Chronic medical conditions can also increase your risk of influenza complications. Examples include:
- Cancer or cancer treatment
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
- Cystic fibrosis
- Kidney or liver disease
Although it is not in the news just yet, flu season is here. It will take up to two weeks to reach full immunity after receiving the vaccination so therefore it’s important to get your vaccination as soon as possible especially since it’s not so active now.
To schedule your influenza vaccination please click this link.