What is Influenza?
Flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses that infect the nose, throat, and sometimes the lungs. It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death.
Flu can cause mild to severe illness, and is different from a cold. Flu usually comes on suddenly. People who have flu often feel some or all of these symptoms:
• Fever (It’s important to note that not everyone with flu will have it)
• sore throat
• runny or stuffy nose
• body aches
• sometimes diarrhea and vomiting
How Flu Spreads?
Most experts believe that flu viruses spread mainly by tiny droplets made when people with flu cough, sneeze or talk. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby.
Period of Contagiousness
You may be able to pass on flu to someone else before you know you are sick, as well as while you are sick. Most of the time people with flu are most contagious in the first 3-4 days after their illness begins.
The time from when a person is exposed and infected with flu to when symptoms begin is about 2 days, but can range from about 1 to 4 days.
Complications of Flu
Complications of flu can include bacterial pneumonia, ear infections, sinus infections and worsening of chronic medical conditions, such as congestive heart failure, asthma, or diabetes.
People at high risk from Flu
Anyone can get flu (even healthy people), and serious problems related to flu can happen at any age, but some people are at high risk includes people 65 years and older, people of any age with certain chronic medical conditions (such as asthma, diabetes, or heart disease), pregnant women, and children younger than 5 years.
Preventing Seasonal Flu
The first and most important step in preventing flu is to get a flu vaccine each year. Flu vaccine has been shown to reduce flu related illnesses and the risk of serious flu complications that can result in hospitalization or even death.
It is very difficult to distinguish flu from other viral or bacterial respiratory illnesses based on symptoms alone. There are tests available to diagnose flu.
There are influenza antiviral drugs that can be used to treat flu illness. But is very important that you visit your general practitioner or a doctor to confirm the diagnosis and prescribe a specific treatment.
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