Things You Should Know About the Flu
Turkey and Dressing Linked to Flu?
“I wanna’ jump, but I’m afraid I’ll fall!” is a phrase you may sing if you have the boogie woogie flu, but with true influenza, you will definitely not feel like jumping. Symptoms of the flu usually present suddenly. Within hours you may progress from feeling well, to thinking you are “going to die,” to wishing that you could go ahead and die! Fever (often with chills) is common, but not universal. Muscle aches, headache, fatigue, cough, sore throat, and nasal congestion or runny nose are symptoms that are typically present. These symptoms are similar to other respiratory viruses, but are usually more severe with influenza. Symptoms last several days to two weeks.
Most people recover uneventfully from an influenza infection, but individuals at risk can develop significant complications. Mild to moderate complications include a bacterial infection that occurs on top of the influenza infection, such as sinusitis or ear infections. Pneumonia and overwhelming influenza infection are severe complications that can cause serious illness or death. Young children, adults over age 65, pregnant women, and individuals with chronic disease are at much higher risk. Lung disease and conditions that affect a person’s immune system significantly increase the incidence of a serious complication.
Although neither turkey, cranberry sauce, nor eggnog are linked to the flu, infections with the influenza virus are spread in the fall and winter months, often peaking during the holiday season. Grandma’s fruitcake may not be the only thing that is passed around at your family holiday get-together. The virus is spread through respiratory droplets when these individuals sneeze, cough, or talk, and people who are infected can actually spread the germ before they develop symptoms.
In South Carolina, 1,306 people have tested positive for the flu so far this flu season (about the same number as last year), and 74 of these individuals have required hospitalization, according to the Department of Health and Environmental Control. Three people have died this year as a result of influenza infection.
Antibiotics do not treat the flu. There are medications that may shorten the length of the illness, and could reduce the rate of complications. This treatment is not necessary for everyone, so prescribing it is at the discretion of the treating provider.
The best treatment for the flu is prevention. Avoid contact (or at least take precautions) with individuals who have been diagnosed with influenza. If you have the flu, stay home, and avoid spreading the disease. Annual immunization is recommended for everyone over six months of age, and recommendations have now been modified to include those with egg allergy (with certain precautions).
Flu immunization not only protects the person who receives it, but limits the spread of the disease to those who are at highest risk. There are several forms of influenza vaccine, including different strengths or regimens for certain populations. It is best to ask your primary care provider which option is right for you. This will help to ensure that happiness and the Christmas spirit are the only things that you spread this season!