Influenza – Flu

What is it, and where am I at risk?

Influenza is a virus that changes year to year, constantly evolving into a new strain (antigenic shift).

While it can potentially be transmitted through multiple routes:

Respiratory – from the cough or sneeze from someone near you

Indirect – by touching the surface where an infected person has previously touched

Direct – contact with body fluids from an infected person

Of those above, the most common transmission is from respiratory secretions.

An individual is infectious BEFORE they have symptoms, and until five- seven days after symptoms appear.

Individuals of ALL ages are at risk, but the most severe illness (including death) is highest in adults at/over age 65 and under age two.

While the flu is generally thought of as “seasonal” (during our cold, damp months), those “seasonal” cold months are different in the Southern Hemisphere, or in tropical or subtropical areas where flu is a risk year-round.

Northern Hemisphere: October through May

Southern Hemisphere: April through September

Tropical Countries: year round

Symptoms and Treatments

Symptoms of the flu often strike suddenly, and last for several days. Symptoms will vary by age and health, but can include:

 

Fever (not all cases have a fever/and sometimes accompanied by chills)

Headache

Cough

Runny or stuffy nose

Myalgia (sore muscles)

Malaise (tiredness)

Sore throat

Vomiting

Serious complications of the flu can include:

Ear infections

Sinus infections

Dehydration

Pneumonia

Worsening of chronic medical conditions

DEATH

Treatment Options

There may now be the option for treating your illness with Influenza-specific anti-viral medications. Contact your primary medical care provider if you have questions about this option for you.

Once a decision is made to use this antiviral treatment, it should be started as soon as possible, because the treatment is most effective when administered as early as possible during the illness.

What Preventative Measures Can I take?

Over the counter measures can aid in the prevention of illness with the flu:

Frequent hand washing with soap and water; or if not available - use an alcohol based hand sanitizer

Avoid touching your face

Avoid contact with sick people

Cover your cough or sneezes with a tissue, and discard that tissue promptly

Clean and disinfect all surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs like the flu virus

One of the most important measures – the CDC and ACIP (Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices) recommend yearly vaccination of all individuals over the age of six months.

They also highly recommend:

travelers who want to reduce their risk should receive the influenza (Flu) vaccine two or more weeks before departure

Flu vaccination for travelers who are part of large tourist groups any time of the year (because of exposure to travelers from other parts of the world)

Flu vaccination for any traveler going on a cruise ship, during any time of the year

Flu vaccination for any traveler going to the tropics, during any time of the year

Flu vaccination for travelers going to temperate climates, during any time of the year

Consider a flu vaccine, every flu season! It’s not a live virus, and cannot cause the flu – it can only protect you. The vaccines available can take two weeks for protection to develop after the vaccine is administered, and should offer protection through that flu season.

Call for your appointment at the Travel and Immunization Clinic today.