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What is Influenza (also called Flu)?

The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death. The best way to prevent the flu is by getting a flu vaccination each fall.

Every year in the United States, on average:

  • 5% to 20% of the population gets the flu;
  • more than 200,000 people are hospitalized from flu complications, and;
  • about 36,000 people die from flu.

Some people, such as older people, young children, and people with certain health conditions, are at high risk for serious flu complications.

Symptoms of Flu

Symptoms of flu include:

  • fever (usually high)
  • headache
  • extreme tiredness
  • dry cough
  • sore throat
  • runny or stuffy nose
  • muscle aches
  • Stomach symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, also can occur but are more common in children than adults


Complications of Flu

Complications of flu can include bacterial pneumonia, ear infections, sinus infections, dehydration, and worsening of chronic medical conditions, such as congestive heart failure, asthma, or diabetes.


Who You Should Stay Away From When You Have The Flu

Because the flu is a dangerous, contagious disease, it definitely bears watching. If you come down with the flu, you should be respectful of the health of other people and try to get out of their way. Otherwise, you might end up spreading your disease to the people you care about. Stay away fromů

Your spouse. If you are married, then you most likely live in close quarters with your partner. You probably sleep in the same bed, in the same room. While intimacy is desirable from the point of view of a married couple, it is by no means desirable when one partner has the flu. Since the virus can be transferred through the air, then being cooped up in a room will only ensure that both partners will soon become sick. If you love your partner and want only the best from him or her, it is probably best if you isolate yourself for a few days, or perhaps even a few weeks. Be sure to explain why you're doing it - you don't want to cause friction.

Your children. If you have children, be sure to stay away from them as well. While both children and adults suffer acutely when flu strikes, it is perhaps more painful for children, who generally have lower tolerances to pain. Plus, as a parent, it would absolutely grate on your conscience if your children got sick because of something you did. Although you might want to hug and kiss your children, refrain from doing so while you are still sick. If you are a stay-at-home parent, you might want to get a friend to take care of your children for a few weeks, else hire a babysitter. But be sure that you stay away.

Your friends and relatives. Stay away from your friends and relatives for the same reason that you avoid your spouse and children: You don't want them to get sick. Having the flu, you already know how painful it could be. Would you want someone you care for to go through the same thing?

Your colleagues. If you go to school, stop. If you go to work, stop that too. Temporarily, anyway. It is your moral responsibility to stop the disease where it lies - in you. If you go to school or to work, you will also infect the people around you, thus forcing them to stop their activities as well. Can you imagine getting your boss sick? Talk about getting in trouble!

Who You Shouldn't Stay Away From

In a word, your doctor. Unless you went to med school yourself, you probably should make use of the knowledge that your doctor has. Your doctor can 1) diagnose your condition more accurately; 2) prescribe drugs to meet your needs; 3) monitor your situation and adjust treatments accordingly, and 4) help you prevent another flu attack from occurring in the future. Although it might cost you some money, try to consult with your doctor regularly. It will pay off dividends with regards to your health in the future.

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Who Should Get Vaccinated?

In general, anyone who wants to reduce their chances of getting the flu can get vaccinated. However, certain people should get vaccinated each year either because they are at high risk of having serious flu-related complications or because they live with or care for high risk persons. During flu seasons when vaccine supplies are limited or delayed, ACIP makes recommendations regarding priority groups for vaccination.

People who should get vaccinated each year are:

1. People at high risk for complications from the flu, including:

  • Children aged 6–59 months of age,
  • Pregnant women,
  • People 50 years of age and older,
  • People of any age with certain chronic medical conditions, and
  • People who live in nursing homes and other long term care facilities.

2. People who live with or care for those at high risk for complications from flu, including:

  • Household contacts of persons at high risk for complications from the flu (see above)
  • Household contacts and out of home caregivers of children less than 6 months of age (these children are too young to be vaccinated)
  • Health care workers.

3. Anyone who wants to decrease their risk of influenza.


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