Health Matters | A Flu Update

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A Flu Update

As the CDC reports a recent increase in flu cases in the mid-Atlantic, it seems we are experiencing a late flu season. The flu (seasonal influenza) is a contagious respiratory illness that can cause mild to severe illness and result in hospitalization or death in severe cases. Now that flu season is here, it is important to remember what symptoms to look for, the practices that can help prevent contracting flu, and what to do if you suspect you have the flu.

Typical symptoms of the flu include:
  • fever or feeling feverish,
  • cough,
  • sore throat,
  • runny or stuffy nose,
  • muscle aches,
  • headache, and fatigue.

Most people who get the flu recover without any problem, but some people can develop significant or even life-threatening complications. Particularly at risk are those less than two years of age and those more than sixty-five years old. People with chronic medical conditions, such as heart or lung problems, are also at increased risk for developing complications from the flu. Other at-risk groups include pregnant women, nursing home and other long-term care facility residents, and people who live with or care for those at a high risk of flu complications.

Flu is contracted by inhaling respiratory droplets floating in the air, which are produced by a sick person coughing or sneezing. A person can also become infected by touching an object contaminated by flu virus (possibly from a hand that covered a sneeze) and then touching his or her mouth, nose or eyes. A person is contagious from one day before getting symptoms up to seven days after getting sick.

Some basic practices that can help in preventing contraction of the flu include the following:
  • Wash your hands often, especially after coughing, sneezing, and wiping or blowing your nose;
  • Use paper tissues when wiping or blowing your nose and throw them away after use;
  • Cough into a tissue or the inside of your elbow instead of into your bare hand;
  • Avoid touching your nose, mouth, or eyes as germs enter the body through these openings;
  • Avoid close contact with sick people; and
  • Stay away from crowds, if possible.

Also, show consideration for others by staying home if you have flu symptoms until you are fever-free without fever medicine for 24 hours.

If you think you have caught the flu, see your physician as soon as possible. He or she may perform a simple test to help determine if you have the flu. Your doctor may prescribe anti-viral medication for you if you have the flu. The medication may reduce the duration of your illness if you begin taking it within 48 hours of the onset of your symptoms.

To learn more about the flu, visit the CDC’s website.

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