It’s the most wonderful time of the year – flu season. A study conducted by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention found that approximately 8% of the U.S. population contracted the flu in 2018. Taking into account seasonal flu, the CDC found that number varied from 3% to 11%. The term seasonal flu is used to describe symptoms and sickness which occur during the same period each year, typically winter months.
The flu is caused by influenza viruses that are easily transmitted from person to person. Two types of influenza (A and B) are responsible for causing seasonal flu each year, infecting the nose, throat and lungs causing mild to severe illness.
The main difference between influenza A and B is that influenza A can be carried and spread by both humans and animals, allowing the virus to develop different strains in a short period of time, thus making pandemic flu a possibility. Influenza B is generally only carried by humans and as such, the virus typically does not produce the high volume of strains as its counterpart.
the best way to prevent contracting flu is to receive your annual flu shot, washing your hands often with soap and water, covering your mouth with a tissue when you cough, and disinfecting commonly used surfaces.
There are certain populations at a higher risk for hospitalization as a result of contracting flu including young children, the elderly and individuals who are immunocompromised. For these individuals, flu can lead to serious complications and even death.
A study conducted in 2018 and published by Clinical Infectious Disease Journal found that on average, children under 18 years of age are at the highest risk of contracting flu, while adults aged 65 and older are least likely to contract the virus.
Symptoms of flu can mimic the common cold and include sore throat, congestion, runny nose, cough, headaches, fatigue, body aches, vomiting and diarrhea; fever may or may not be present. The difference between the common cold and flu is that flu typically begins suddenly with no pre-existing symptoms.
The answer is that the flu virus is spread from person to person by tiny droplets released when infected individuals cough, sneeze, or talk. Those tiny droplets can be inhaled through the mouth and/or nose to the mouths and noses of those unlucky individuals who happen to be in proximity to someone with the virus. Although occurring less often, flu can be spread by coming into contact with something that has flu virus on it, like a pen, doorknob or computer keyboard and then subsequently touching your nose, throat, mouth, or eyes. The single best way to prevent contracting flu is to receive an annual flu shot.
The majority of individuals who become ill do not need to seek medical care or be treated with antiviral drugs. Most doctors recommend staying home to prevent infecting others, getting plenty of rest and drinking fluids. On the other hand, if you are a member of a high-risk population or are concerned about your symptoms, you should call your doctor as soon as possible. Treatment using antiviral drugs is encouraged immediately for people with asthma, diabetes or heart disease because serious complications can occur when these individuals contract flu. It has been shown that early treatment with antiviral medications (specifically within two days of symptom manifestation) provides the best treatment of flu. However, there is no detriment in taking these medications later in the course of illness because they can still aid in preventing further sickness.
While the effectiveness of the flu vaccine can vary, the CDC has found that vaccination can reduce the risk of illness by 40-60%. That being said, different strains of flu may not respond to the vaccine and thus, individuals can still become sick even after receiving the vaccination; however, this should not be a deterrent from receiving an annual flu shot as the chances of becoming ill significantly decrease with regard to the most prevalent strains of the virus. Other steps you can take to prevent becoming sick include washing your hands often with soap and water before touching your eyes, nose and mouth, covering your mouth with a tissue when you cough, disinfecting commonly used surfaces and staying home from school or work for at least 24 hours after fever subsides without the use of medications such as Tylenol and Advil.
While this information may seem overwhelming, the best way to prevent contracting flu is to receive your annual flu shot, washing your hands often with soap and water, covering your mouth with a tissue when you cough, and disinfecting commonly used surfaces.
If you become sick, monitor your symptoms and call your doctor if you think you need further care. Wash your hands and stay home if you are sick!!!! These simple measures will go a long way in preventing illness.
Further information regarding the flu can be found by visiting the Center For Disease Control and Prevention’s website, the National Institutes of Health website found at and the World Health Organization’s website.