What is the Flu (Influenza)?
It is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses that infect a person’s nose, throat, and lungs. There are two main types of flu viruses, type A and type B commonly referred to as the human influenza viruses because they are routinely spread in humans and are responsible for seasonal flu epidemics each year. The flu season runs between October and May.
Signs and Symptoms
Symptoms can be mild to severe and can at times lead to death. Signs and symptoms can come on suddenly including,
- Fever or feeling feverish (not in everyone)
- Runny/stuffy nose
- Muscle/body aches
- Sore throat
- Vomiting (more common in children)
How does the Flu (Influenza) spread?
These viruses are primarily spread through person-to-person contact up to about 6 feet away. Droplets are exhaled when an infected person sneezes, coughs, or talks; the droplets can land in the mouth, or nose of the person in close contact and can be inhaled into their lungs. Another way the virus is spread is by coming in contact with infected surfaces or objects then touching one’s own mouth, nose, or eyes.
What are the complications of Flu (Influenza)?
- Sinus infection
- Ear infection
- Inflammation of heart muscles (myocarditis)
- Inflammation of the brain (encephalitis)
- Inflammation of muscle tissue (myositis/rhabdomyolysis
- Multi-organ failure (respiratory, kidney)
- Can lead to a worsening of other chronic conditions
What is the Flu (Influenza) Vaccine and how do you prevent it?
Vaccines are available to minimize the risks associated with seasonal flu and it potentially serious complications. It takes about 2 weeks after the vaccine to be protected. There are many flu vaccine options to choose from, but the ultimate goal is to get vaccinated. Some types of influenza vaccines available are:
- The standard- inactivated flu vaccine (injectable shot)- for ages 6 months and older
- The recombinant influenza vaccine (injectable shot) for ages 18 years and older
- A high dose influenza vaccine (Fluzone) contains a higher dose of antigen and is available for people 65 years and older.
- A live attenuated influenza vaccine (FluMist) given by nasal spray for people ages 2 through 49 years old. Live attenuated influenza vaccine should not be given to people who are pregnant, immunocompromised persons, and some other groups.
Who needs the Flu (Influenza) Vaccine?
The vaccine is appropriate for most people. It is recommended that everyone 6 months of age and older receive it unless there are contraindications such as less than 6 months of age, a history of severe life-threatening allergies to the vaccine or its components. If you have a history of Guillain Barre syndrome, please speak with your health care provider to determine vaccine appropriateness.