Commonly known as the flu, influenza is a highly contagious infectious disease that is caused by a virus that detriments the respiratory system. Influenza can be fatal but prevention is possible with an annual vaccine that is given during the autumnal season.
Five to twenty percent of the American population gets the flu each year. Each year, there are over 200,000 hospitalizations that occur as a result of the flu and approximately 36,000 deaths. The elderly, young children, and individuals suffering from various health conditions are at greater risk of experiencing more severe symptoms and complications of the flu.
The symptoms of influenza include sore throat, headache, muscle ache, high fever, fatigue, dry cough, congestion, and stomach ailments such as vomiting, nausea, and diarrhea. Stomach conditions are more common in younger patients than in adults. Common complications that arise from the flu are dehydration, bacterial pneumonia, and worsening of certain chronic medical issues. Examples of chronic medical issues that worsen as a result of the flu include asthma, congestive heart failure, and diabetes. In children, flu can cause ear infections and sinus problems.
The influenza virus can spread by respiratory fluids expelled during sneezing and coughing. he virus spreads from person to person, though infection can occur by touching infected surfaces and then touching the nose or the mouth. Typically, healthy adults who contract the flu virus are infectious starting the day before symptoms manifest. The infectious state can last up to five days after the onset of illness. Thus, it is possible that you can spread the flu virus without even knowing that you have it.
While flu vaccination is not mandatory, it is good to get vaccinated annually if you are in a high risk group or if you live or work with high risk individuals. The high risk groups include: all children aged six to twenty three months, the elderly, aged sixty-five and older, individuals living in long term medical care facilities, individuals with chronic lung or heart conditions, people with asthma, those who require constant medical care, have been hospitalized in the past year due to a metabolic disease such as diabetes, weakened immune system, or chronic kidney disease, children eighteen or under on long term aspirin therapy, pregnant women, and people with any conditions that can detriment the respiratory system.
While not a part of the high risk group, people aged fifty to sixty four should still get vaccinated annually because one in three of this age group in America has a medical condition that can seriously complicate the flu.
People who should not get vaccinated without the consent of a doctor are: children under six months of age, individuals who are experiencing fever, individuals allergic to chicken eggs, those who have reacted poorly to a flu vaccine before, and those who have been diagnosed with Guillain Barre Syndrome, abbreviated as GBS, within six weeks of getting their last flu vaccine.