Influenza, commonly referred to as the flu, is a viral respiratory infection. While the symptoms can be similar to the common cold, the flu is caused by a different type of virus and is much more severe than the average cold. Symptoms of influenza include sore throat, fever, chills, headaches, coughing, weakness, muscle pain and discomfort. In serious cases influenza can lead to pneumonia.
HOW IS THE FLU SPREAD?
The flu is spread by airborne methods, such as sneezing or coughing. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimate that 5%-20% of the population in the US is infected with the flu every year. This results in 36,000 deaths and 200,000 hospitalizations annually. Children, the elderly and people with chronic illnesses such as heart disease or asthma are particularly at risk for complications associated with the flu, such as pneumonia.
WHAT IS THE FLU SEASON?
The flu is a seasonal virus, meaning that it circulates in the population more heavily during certain parts of the year. In the US, flu season is usually considered November thru April but some years it can last from October to May.
WHAT IS THE INFLUENZA VACCINATION?
Vaccination involves inoculating a person with a dead or weak version of the virus. In response to inoculation the body develops antibodies that can fight off a real infection. It generally takes two weeks for these antibodies to develop in the body so vaccinations are most effective if taken early during flu season. The CDC states that vaccination is the most effective method of preventing the flu.
HOW ARE VACCINATIONS ADMINISTERED?
Vaccinations can be administered through two methods. The most common is the flu shot. The shot contains a dead version of the virus that cannot cause illness. The newer method of vaccination is a nasal spray known as FluMist. The nasal spray usually does not cause illness, but can sometimes cause minor symptoms, such as runny nose or fatigue.
HOW OFTEN DO I NEED TO GET VACCINATED?
Over time the immunity promoted by vaccination declines. So, it is important to get vaccinated every year to remain protected from the flu. In addition, the strains of flu that are most commonly circulated in the population change from year to year. A current vaccination is the best form of protection against the flu.
WHAT ARE ANTIVIRAL FLU DRUGS?
Antiviral drugs work by blocking reproduction of the virus after infection. Influenza antiviral drugs must be prescribed by a healthcare professional. While vaccination is the most effective method for preventing the flu, antiviral drugs can be used for prevention or treatment of the flu.
Most commonly used for prevention, antiviral drugs are used in areas where many people have been infected with the flu and there is a danger of outbreak. They may also be used for flu prevention in people who are particularly at risk for complications associated with the flu.
Antiviral drugs are also recommended for treatment of the flu and are most effective if used within two days of the appearance of flu symptoms. Once taken, they can usually reduce the duration of the flu. The most common side effects of influenza antiviral drugs is nausea.
By taking precautions against the flu, such as the flu shot, proper hand washing and daily exercise, you can decrease your chances of becoming sick. At Urgent Clinics Medical Care, our friendly, experienced and licensed healthcare professionals are ready to help you protect your family against the severe effects of the flu virus. Just walk in today to any of our convenient locations in the Houston area including Pearland, Champions, The Woodlands and 3 locations in League City: Creekside, Marina Bay and Tuscan Lakes.