What it is:
Influenza (flu) is a contagious viral respiratory infection that typically, although not always, causes fever (100-102° F for several days), severe aches and pains, exhaustion, coughing, sore throat, congestion and a runny nose.
What it’s not:
The flu can be serious:
If you get the flu, stay home, get plenty of rest and drink lots of fluids. Young children, seniors and others with risk factors – including asthma, pregnancy, diabetes, heart disease, and lung disease – should contact a health care provider right away because they are at higher risk for serious complications from the flu, including bronchitis and pneumonia. It’s important that these people seek medical advice, because the flu increases the risk of:
The flu can be prevented:
The flu can be prevented by getting a flu vaccine every year when it becomes available in the fall. See your provider or find a flu vaccination location near you by visiting flu.gov. The vaccine takes two weeks to take full effect, but the flu season can last as late as May, so it’s not too late to get vaccinated. The current vaccine is a good match for the type of viruses causing the flu this year. The types of vaccines available are:
The flu can be treated:
Two medications – oseltamivir (Tamiflu®) and zanamivir (Relenza®) – can lessen the symptoms and shorten the duration of the flu, especially if they are taken within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms. It is important that physicians prescribe these medications for patients with confirmed or suspected influenza who have severe, complicated, or progressive illness; who require hospitalization; or who are at greater risk for serious influenza-related complications. Oseltamivir is now approved for use in infants two weeks and older.
This flu season is a bad one:
All regions in the United States except one (which includes California, Arizona, Nevada and Hawaii) are reporting high levels of influenza activity, and 5.6 percent of medical visits for the last week of December were for the flu, more than twice the typical rate, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It is not completely understood why this is such a bad year, but the predominant strain of flu this year is influenza A (H3N2), which tends to be more severe.
Last Updated: 1/14/13
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