5 Must-Know Facts About the Common Flu

May 7th 2016

The CDC states the best way to prevent getting the flu is to get the vaccine every year. Know crucial facts about the virus to take appropriate action to prevent the spread of this sometimes fatal illness.

How Flu Spreads

The flu virus spreads when you inhale infected droplets of air, when you come in direct contact with an infected person's secretions or when you touch smooth surfaces containing the virus. Air droplets become contaminated after someone with the flu coughs or sneezes. People directly contact an infected person's secretions through kissing, touching or sharing silverware. Smooth surfaces that could contain the flu virus commonly include doorknobs, remote controls, computer keyboards and elevator buttons. When you touch one of these infected surfaces and then touch your hands to your eyes, nose or mouth, the flu virus becomes absorbed into the body.

Risk Factors

Several risk factors may increase your chances of catching the virus. Receive the annual flu shot to decrease your odds of getting the flu. Eat a balanced diet, get regular exercise, get plenty of sleep and reduce stress to boost your immune system naturally. Frequent hand washing with soap and water and use of alcohol-based hand sanitizers greatly reduce the spread of influenza. Children under the age of two are more susceptible to flu symptoms, and babies under 6 months of age cannot get the seasonal vaccine. The CDC recommends parents keep babies away from infected people to prevent the flu. Elderly patients are also more prone to flu infections. The CDC believes 90 percent of flu-related deaths occur in people 65 and older.

Where to Get the Vaccine

The CDC recommends everyone 6 months of age and older receive the seasonal flu vaccine. Ideally, patients should be immunized by October of each year to prevent getting the full-blown flu. Obtain the flu vaccine at several locations, including doctor’s offices, pharmacies, clinics, health departments and college health centers. Employers and schools may also offer the flu shot. The CDC's HealthMap Vaccine Finder helps you locate the nearest place to get an immunization. Up to 156 million doses of the vaccine were available during the 2014-2015 flu season.

How Long Does Flu Season Last?

Flu season lasts from October to May. Flu activity peaks between December and February. The CDC's weekly FluView report shows you where flu has spread based on preliminary data from health care centers that test for the flu. The weekly report also notes how many children died from the flu during that particular week. The report is divided into 10 regions of the United States.

How to Tell if You Have the Flu

Symptoms of the flu include several signs of the respiratory illness. Many people have a fever, cough, runny nose and sore throat. Some patients may also have muscle aches, fatigue, headaches and vomiting. Not everyone with the flu gets a fever, and vomiting is more prevalent in children who have the flu.

Conclusion

Seasonal influenza, more commonly known as the flu, affects millions of Americans each year. Hundreds of thousands of people go to the hospital each year because of the virus. Obtaining a seasonal flu vaccine represents the best way to avoid getting the full-blown sickness, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Understand essential facts regarding the virus to try to prevent the flu from spreading to your family.

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