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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.

 


Why Seeing The Doctor Is Important When You Have The Flu

What is the flu?

Influenza is a viral infection that is accompanied by symptoms of fever (often high fever), dry cough, and muscle aches. With the young and healthy, it does not cause too many problems except for a rather painful two weeks. In the old and sick, however, it can be a major cause of death.

What are the symptoms?

The symptoms associated with the flu are quite similar to that of the common cold. However, the flu "version" of these symptoms is much more severe. The fever is higher, the aches are more painful, and the muscles and the back often begin to act up. A severe headache, a dry cough, and abnormal sweating and shivering may be an indication of the flu, but they may also point to other illnesses. Sometimes a stomach-related disorder may also be involved, vomiting or diarrhea.

Don't mistake a bad cold for the flu. If you've had both, you should know the difference. Most people who have the flu find it difficult to even get up in the morning and get out of bed. If you have the flu the symptoms should rage for up to five days then begin to get less severe. It should completely clear up after two or three weeks. Depression is often encountered by people who have been infected by the flu virus.

Although the symptoms may appear to be very severe, most people of normal health should be able to defeat the infection. Only people with poor immune systems, such as very young children or very old adults, are susceptible to dying from the flu.

What are the causes?

The flu is caused by a viral attack on the cells of the human body. The symptoms that will appear will depend on the strain of the virus involved. The virus is in a state of constant mutation; thus new strains are always coming into existence. Because immunity against one strain of the virus does not result in immunity against all the strains, there is an ongoing work to identify the strains currently at work, as well as developing vaccines against those strains.

Why You Need A Doctor

Everything mentioned up to this point is to give you a sense that the flu is a dangerous disease and not something that should be taken lightly. This is why there is a need for you to consult with a certified physician. First of all, we mentioned that the flu can be confused with a very bad cold. This may not seem to be a big mistake, expect for the fact that you will taking medication for the wrong reasons. You might end up treating the symptoms but doing nothing to change the root cause. A doctor will be able to come up with a more accurate diagnosis, as well as prescribe medicine that will be best for your condition. Second, there may be mitigating factors that must be considered when you have the flu. If you are old, or perhaps sick, the flu will have a much more devastating effect on you than it otherwise would. In a word, special assistance is needed to make sure that your condition does not get exacerbated. All in all, you will be able to weather the effects of flu if you have your doctor by your side.

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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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