Flu Season: What You Need to Know

It’s that time again: shorter days, cooler temperatures and the beginning of the flu season. Approximately 36,000 Americans die from flu every year. For healthy adults, the flu can be a nuisance; but for the young and old, it can be debilitating or even fatal, so it is important to keep the flu from spreading.

Credit: CDC.Gov

Yikes! Magnified view of the flu virus. Credit: CDC.Gov

As a preventative measure, the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta recommend yearly vaccinations for everyone 6 months or older. Vaccines for high risk individuals, including young children, pregnant women, people 50 years and older, those with certain chronic medical conditions and people living in nursing homes are highly recommended.

Photo via flickr – Credit: paulswansen

Photo via flickr – Credit: paulswansen

The influenza virus, or as more commonly known, the flu, is a wintertime ravage with symptoms ranging from very mild to life-threatening. Fever, sore throat and cough, runny or stuffy nose, and fatigue are just some of the signs and symptoms of the flu virus.

What can you do to prevent the flu?

• Get a flu vaccine. Don’t wait. Available every fall at a doctor`s office, your local pharmacy and clinics.
Try to avoid close contact with those who are sick.
• If you are sick with flu-like illness, stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone without the use of fever-reducing medicine.
Cover your mouth and nose when sneezing or coughing to avoid spreading disease.
• Wash your hands frequently.
Take any medication if you`re prescribed them.

flu3

Photo via flickr – Credit: Army Medicine

Influenza vaccines come in two forms: the flu shot and a nasal-spray. The flu shot is an inactivated vaccine, while the nasal-spray contains live, weakened flu viruses that do not cause the flu. It is best to check with your health care professional to determine which vaccine is right for you.

Every year, (some very brave) scientists monitor flu activity and collect samples of the virus from around the world to predict which strains will spread during the flu season and should be covered by the flu vaccine. The majority of the 2013 vaccines will still have three strains. However, a new vaccine will guard against four strains of flu instead of the typical three. The fourth strain adds protection against an additional strain of influenza B.

Photo via flickr – Credit: William Brawley

Photo via flickr – Credit: William Brawley

The best time to get vaccinated is early in the flu season, with the CDC recommending October or November. It takes about two weeks after getting vaccinated to develop the antibodies that protect against influenza.

Symptoms of the flu include, but are not limited to:
• Fever
• Runny or stuffy nose
• Headache
• Fatigue
• Sore Throat
• Muscle Aches

Read more at the CDC website.

Photo via flickr – Credit USACE Europe District

Photo via flickr – Credit USACE Europe District

Contrary to popular belief, antibiotics are not effective against viral infections like the flu. However, it’s possible to get bacterial infections while fighting the flu and may need to take antibiotics. Severe or prolonged illness or an illness that gets better, then worse may be a sign of bacterial infection.

Be sure to make it a habit to check WeatherBug for the latest weekly Influenza Update throughout the flu season. Be sure to keep WeatherBug active to receive the latest weather in your neighborhood and get the latest updates anywhere on Twitter.

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