What is the Influenza Virus?
Influenza is a viral infection also known as the flu. It is an infection that kills many worldwide every year. There are multiple Influenza viruses, but not all of them attack the body in the same way. The Seasonal Influenza virus is what people worry about during the yearly flu season. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) monitors diseases around the world very closely. It is their monitoring that enables people to know that they need to be extra careful during the upcoming flu season because of strong viruses or new outbreaks, such as the 2009 Influenza H1N1 pandemic. The H1N1 Influenza pandemic breakout was also called the Swine flu. During the Swine Flu pandemic outbreak there were not enough Influenza vaccinations. The H1N1 Influenza virus created a lot of panic along with the media a. The H1N1 Influenza virus is still around, but now they can treat it.
Influenza is contagious. It spreads from person to person and can be passed without knowledge just by speaking because it is in a person's spit. The Influenza virus likes to hang out in the spittle that comes out when people talk, spit, cough, and sneeze. A person with Influenza can pass it by sneezing because microscopic drops of the virus get in the eyes, mouth, nose, or on the hands of someone healthy and they somehow ingest it.
What are the Symptoms of Seasonal Influenza?
The flu season runs for a couple of months throughout the winter. Although there are some who get it as early as October, the highest rate of occurrence is during February with almost 50% of influenza cases. Getting sick with influenza feels miserable and usually hits suddenly. Influenza typically hits a person harder than a common cold, but the extent of illness cannot be predicted. Influenza causes deaths around the world every year. You should know how to recognize flu symptoms.
- Sore throat
- Runny/congested nose
- Muscle/body aches
- Fatigue (tiredness)
- Vomiting/diarrhea (maybe)
Influenza can affect your nose, throat, the bronchi inside your chest, plus your lungs. Many who get the flu end up feeling very achy with body aches and chills. Each person who gets Influenza has a symptom that is worse for them, something they specifically dread about getting the flu. Not every person who comes down with Influenza will get a fever, but some do. You can also get the chills without having an actual fever although you still may feel feverish. The typical duration of Influenza is anywhere from a couple of days to two weeks.
There are complications of the flu that can make it dangerous. Sometimes Influenza does not go away and it turns into Pneumonia. It can also cause bronchitis, and sinus and ear infections. Those who are at higher risks of complications from Influenza are people older that 65, pregnant women, people with chronic illnesses (Asthma, Diabetes, HIV, Cancer, Arthritis, etc.), and children.
How to Prevent Seasonal Influenza
Since Influenza is passed from person to person it can be hard to prevent it. However, it can also be easy to prevent if you are steadfast in following these guidelines to prevent the flu:
- Get a Flu shot/Influenza vaccination.
- Cover your mouth when you sneeze and cough, whether you're sick or not.
- Cough or sneeze into your elbow. This prevents spittle from flying. Just raise your arm, elbow to mouth, and sneeze or cough. Show your kids this as well.
- Wash hands frequently, especially if you cough or sneeze. Or use an alcohol hand sanitizer.
- Stay away from sick people and stay home if you are sick. Do not return to work or school until you are well again for 24 hours.
- It's recommended to take anti-viral Influenza medication if your doctor prescribes them.
Some countries do not have strict policies about going to work or flying when you have Influenza. Because Influenza is an airborne virus it has the potential to outbreak quickly. One person traveling can spread Influenza to many others. If you are in a country that doesn't take many preventative measures you can do it yourself. Just because a country has not yet started nationwide Influenza prevention does not mean you cannot prevent yourself from getting the flu.
How to Get a Flu Shot
National Influenza Vaccination Week (NIVW) is in December. The Influenza vaccination week is to bring attention to the fact that it is important to get immunized against influenza, what is known as getting a flu shot. Every year during the winter months local stores, doctors, walk in clinics, and pharmacies begin to offer flu shots. The Influenza or flu shot for 2010 will have protection against H1N1 plus two seasonal flu viruses. If you do not know where to go to get an Influenza vaccination shot then you can check out the Flu.gov site to locate a pharmacy, store, or other place to get your flu shot. There is also the option of a Nasal Spray Influenza vaccine that is available for those aged 2-49 years, not pregnant, and healthy.
The flu shot is highly recommended for most individuals. Some cannot get the influenza vaccination because of allergies to its ingredients (eggs). The Influenza vaccine is recommended for children (esp. under 2), pregnant women, the elderly, individuals with compromised immune systems, health care workers, and others. If you are not sure whether you should get an Influenza shot then call your doctor. If you do not have a doctor then contact a location that gives flu shots and ask them the criteria to receive one.
Final Influenza Tips
Whether or not you get an Influenza shot there are things you can do to prevent Influenza. You should also make sure that you educate your children about how they can prevent Influenza. It is never to early to teach a child good health manners, personal grooming, and hygiene. Washing hands is very important. Pay attention to your body and how you feel. When you feel sickness coming on, stay home. If you are careful, wash your hands thoroughly, and follow the tips to prevent the flu, you can make it through the Influenza season without getting sick. Another way to prevent Influenza is to eat healthy. Keeping yourself in a general state of good health can make you less likely to get complications if you do get the flu.
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