Many people refer to the “flu” as being either a cold or the “stomach flu”. Influenza is a contagious respiratory viral illness that affects the nose, throat, and lungs. Influenza outbreaks occur in the late fall and winter with varying degrees of severity. The symptoms of the flu are: chills with moderate to high fever, cough, sore throat, headache, muscle aches, runny nose, and fatigue. Usually, these symptoms come on quickly.
The flu spreads by an infected person coughing or sneezing and these droplets landing on a commonly used surface, or on another person. The flu virus droplets can live on surfaces for 2 to 8 hours. When another person touches the surface and then their eyes, mouth, or nose they can become infected with the flu virus. If a sick person sneezes within 4-5 feet of another individual these droplets can spray onto this person potentially spreading the flu to this person.
Period of contagiousness
Twenty four hours before a person begins to experience symptoms, they can begin to spread the illness. Children can actually begin to spread the disease 2 days before they begin to show symptoms. The ill person is contagious for approximately 5 days.
The flu can cause our bodies to be weakened so that we cannot resist other diseases such as bacterial pneumonia, ear infections, sinus infections, or dehydration. The flu can be severe in people with other diseases such as asthma, diabetes or pregnant women or elderly people.
Of course, the best prevention for yourself and for the community that you live in is the flu vaccine. Currently, Family Medicine of Albemarle has the flu vaccine. Don’t wait as the flu vaccine does take 10-14 days to provide excellent protection. Everyone 6 months and older should receive the yearly flu vaccine.
Hand-washing is the second way of prevention. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth until you are able to wash your hands either with soap or with hand sanitizers.
If you are sick, do not spread the disease by being in public. An ill person should not go back to class, work, or be in public areas until they have been fever-free for 24 hours or 5 days whichever is the longer. Cover your cough with a tissue when you cough or sneeze and then wash your hands for 20 seconds.
Check out information on the Centers for Disease Control site