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Clinical Focus: Flu Facts

Many of you have seen the news or heard it on the radio that this flu season started early and worse than usual. What exactly is the flu and how can we help prevent the spread of it? The CDC website (ww.cdc.gov) defines the flu as:


“Influenza (flu) is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. It can cause mild to severe illness. Serious outcomes of flu infection can result in hospitalization or death. Some people, such as older people, young children, and people with certain health conditions, are at high risk of serious flu complications. There are two main types of influenza (flu) virus: Types A and B. The influenza A and B viruses that routinely spread in people (human influenza viruses) are responsible for seasonal flu epidemics each year.”


The CDC also provides helpful tips on how the flu is spreads:

How Flu Spreads: People with flu can spread it to others up to about 6 feet away. Most experts think that flu viruses spread mainly by droplets made when people with flu cough, sneeze or talk. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs. Less often, a person might get flu by touching a surface or object that has flu virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes.

When Flu Spreads: People with flu are most contagious in the first three to four days after their illness begins. Most healthy adults may be able to infect others beginning 1 day before symptoms develop and up to 5 to 7 days after becoming sick. Children and some people with weakened immune systems may pass the virus for longer than 7 days. Symptoms can begin about 2 days (but can range from 1 to 4 days) after the virus enters the body. That means that you may be able to pass on the flu to someone else before you know you are sick, as well as while you are sick. Some people can be infected with the flu virus but have no symptoms. During this time, those people may still spread the virus to others.”


You also probably keep hearing about getting a flu shot or the common misconception that “every time I get a flu shot, I get the flu.” The CDC has a lot of information and data backing the effectiveness of the flu vaccine; however here are the main reasons you should consider getting your flu shot:


  • Flu vaccination can keep you from getting sick with flu.

  • Getting vaccinated yourself may also protect people around you, including those who are more vulnerable to serious flu illness, like babies and young children, older people, and people with certain chronic health conditions.

  • Flu vaccination can reduce the risk of flu-associated hospitalization for children, working age adults, and older adults.

  • Flu vaccination is an important preventive tool for people with chronic health conditions.

  • Flu vaccination helps protect women during and after pregnancy.

  • Flu vaccine can be lifesaving in children.

  • Flu vaccination has been shown in several studies to reduce severity of illness in people who get vaccinated but still get sick.


Wow, that’s a lot of helpful information for this flu season. Let’s remember that others are counting on you to do your part in stopping the spread of the flu virus. You can help by A) getting your flu shot, B) properly covering those coughs and sneezes and C) always remembering the simple gesture to wash your hands.

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