FACTS ABOUT THE FLU
Influenza, known as the flu, is a contagious respiratory illness caused by a virus that can infect the nose, throat and lungs. It can range from mild to severe. The best way to prevent the flu is by getting vaccinated yearly. Fall and winter makeup the flu season which typically runs from late November through March.
Signs and symptoms of the flu include: fever and chills, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches, and fatigue. Vomiting and diarrhea may be present but this is more common in children than adults.
Flu is spread through droplets when someone who has the flu sneezes, coughs or talks. You can also get the flu by touching surfaces or objects that are contaminated with the virus, then touching your own mouth, eyes or nose. The contagious period can be one day before signs and symptoms develop and up to 5-7 days after becoming ill. Symptoms usually appear 1-4 days after exposure.
High risk groups include those who are 65 years or older, persons with chronic medical conditions such as asthma or diabetes, pregnant women and young children.
Prevention includes general hygiene measures such as good and frequent hand washing, avoiding contact with persons who are infected with the virus and an annual flu vaccine.
Treatment for the flu is treating the symptoms. Medication such as an influenza antiviral drug may shorten the course of the illness and this must be prescribed by a doctor and started within the first 2 days of getting sick. It can also help to prevent complications such as pneumonia. The flu gets confused with the stomach flu which includes nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. The stomach flu may be caused by a virus, bacteria or parasites. Influenza is a respiratory disease not a stomach or gastrointestinal upset.