Influenza, commonly known as the flu, is a respiratory illness caused by influenza virus and is contagious. Catching the flu can lead to hospitalization or even death. Children and the elderly are at a higher risk of dealing with serious complications from the flu. The two main types of the flu virus, Type A and B, are spread among people and are responsible for the seasonal epidemics we experience every year.
Symptoms of the flu include:
- Cough, often becoming severe
- Extreme exhaustion
- Fatigue for several weeks
- High fever
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Severe aches and pains
- Sneezing at times
- Sometimes a sore throat
- Vomiting and diarrhea
Symptoms from the virus may not show till two days after the virus entering your body. You can pass the flu to someone else before you know you are sick. You are most contagious in the first 3-4 days after the illness begins.
How flu spreads
The flu is spread person to person and can be spread between two people up to 6 feet away. The flu can be spread through a cough, sneeze, or talking to a person.
You can catch the flu from touching a surface or object that has the flu virus and then touching your mouth, nose, or eyes, so remember to always wash your hands throughout the day.
The most important step in preventing the flu is to get a flu vaccine every year. The CDC recommends a yearly flu vaccine for everyone six months old and older. A new flu vaccine is made each fall. The flu vaccine is closely watched by the CDC and the FDA and is completely safe. The flu shot cannot give you the flu, but you may experience side effects that can be similar to the illness such as low-grade fever and soreness where the shot was given. Antiviral medicines can be used against the flu, but it is important that you get your yearly flu shot.
The flu vaccine works best for healthy young adults and older children. Older people or people with a chronic illness may develop an immunity after vaccination. Vaccination varies for everyone, but it is still important to get vaccinated as it is the best way to protect yourself against the virus. Vaccination can decrease the level of severity of the illness if you do still get the flu. Studies have shown that vaccination has reduced chances of death and shorten the length of a hospital stay for those dealing with flu complications.
It takes up to two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop in your body and protect you from the virus. It is important to get vaccinated as soon as possible to better your chances of not getting the flu. The flu shot is available for walk in patients in University Medical Center’s Primary Care Clinic, and the Walgreens location on the first floor of the Clinic Building. You can also receive the flu vaccine at all LCMC Health Urgent Care Clinics.
Dr. Nirav Patel is University Medical Center's Chief Medical Officer. In this role, he is responsible for directing patient safety and quality in the organization. He serves as liaison to the medical staff and works closely to engage University Medical Center's academic partners in the strategic initiatives that advance University Medical Center's mission. Dr. Patel is a specialist in Infectious Diseases and Critical Care Medicine.