Who it affects:
Anyone can catch the flu. Even young healthy people can get sick with the flu, but certain people are at greater risk to develop complications from the flu, such as older people, young children, pregnant women, people with chronic medical conditions like congestive heart failure, diabetes or asthma, and people who live in places like nursing homes.
What is it?
The flu is a highly contagious respiratory illness caused by the influenza viruses. Influenza viruses cause seasonal epidemics in the early spring and winter almost every year in the United States. The flu is not predictable. An estimated 200,000 people in the United States are hospitalized each year because of flu-related complications. Flu can range from mild to severe, and can even lead to death.
What you need to know:
The flu can often be confused with the common cold, but flu symptoms are usually more severe than the typical sneezing and stuffiness of a cold. Symptoms of the flu may include:
The flu can lead to bacterial pneumonia, muscle inflammation, central nervous system infection, pericarditis (infection of the sac around the heart), ear infections, sinus infections, dehydration, and worsening of chronic medical conditions.
How does flu spread?
Virus-infected droplets that get into the air from infected people when they talk, sneeze or cough can spread the flu. Infected people may infect others from one day before symptoms develop up to 5-7 days after symptoms start. People infected with the flu should stay home and avoid contact with other people, as much as possible, except to seek medical care, cover their mouth when they cough or sneeze, and wash their hands often.
How do vaccines protect us from flu?
The immune system recognizes viruses and bacteria that enter the body as “foreign” invaders or antigens, and produces antibodies to fight them. Vaccines contain killed or weakened antigens that are not strong enough to produce the signs and symptoms of the disease, but that are strong enough to trigger the body’s immune system to produce antibodies.
The single best way to prevent the flu, as well as other infectious diseases, is to be vaccinated. Vaccinations save lives, decrease doctor visits, decrease hospitalizations, and decrease time away from work.
There are two types of flu vaccines:
Please consult your physician or visit www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd-vac/should-not-vacc.htm for a listing of vaccines, side effects, effectiveness, and a list of who should not get the flu vaccine. Getting the flu vaccine not only protects you from the flu, but may also avoid spreading the flu to others.
Additional Resources and References: