By Peggy Henry, Client Relationship Manager
Seasonal influenza (flu) viruses are most common during the fall and winter. The exact timing and duration of flu seasons can vary, but influenza activity often begins to increase in October. Most of the time flu activity peaks between December and February, although activity can last as late as May. For the first time beginning this fall, the US will have to deal with a flu season wrapped in a global pandemic.
Experts are not certain whether the influenza vaccination could help protect against COVID-19 or whether steps taken to mitigate COVID-19 will reduce the burden of the coming flu season. What can you do? Get a flu shot and wear your mask to limit exposure!
What is Influenza?
Influenza (flu) is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. It can cause mild to severe illness. Serious outcomes of flu infection can result in hospitalization or death. Some people, such as older people, young children, and people with certain health conditions, are at high risk of serious flu complications. There are two main types of influenza (flu) virus: Types A and B. The influenza A and B viruses that routinely spread in people (human influenza viruses) are responsible for seasonal flu epidemics each year.
Influenza (flu) can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death. Flu is different from a cold. Flu usually comes on suddenly. People who have flu often feel some or all of these symptoms:
- fever* or feeling feverish/chills
- sore throat
- runny or stuffy nose
- muscle or body aches
- fatigue (tiredness)
- vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults.
*It is important to note that not everyone with flu will have a fever.
How Flu Spreads
Most experts believe that flu viruses spread mainly by tiny droplets made when people with flu cough, sneeze or talk. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby. Less often, a person might get flu by touching a surface or object that has flu virus on it and then touching his or her own mouth, nose or possibly their eyes.
Period of Contagiousness
You may be able to spread flu to someone else before you know you are sick, as well as while you are sick.
- People with flu are most contagious in the first 3-4 days after their illness begins.
- Some otherwise healthy adults may infect others beginning 1 day before symptoms develop and up to 5 to 7 days after becoming sick.
- Some people, especially young children and people with weakened immune systems, might be able to infect others for an even longer time.
Onset of Symptoms
- The time from when a person is exposed and infected with flu to when symptoms begin is about 2 days, but can range from about one to 4 days.
Complications of Flu
Complications of flu can include bacterial pneumonia, ear infections, sinus infections and worsening of chronic medical conditions, such as congestive heart failure, asthma, or diabetes.
Preventing Seasonal Flu
The first and most important step in preventing flu is to get a flu vaccine each year. Flu vaccine has been shown to reduce flu related illnesses and the risk of serious flu complications that can result in hospitalization or even death. CDC also recommends everyday preventive actions (like staying away from people who are sick, covering coughs and sneezes and frequent handwashing) to help slow the spread of germs that cause respiratory (nose, throat, and lungs) illnesses, like flu.
Health insurance carriers are required to offer coverage for flu shots without charging a copayment or coinsurance, however, be sure to check with your insurance company to find out if you must go to a specific facility to receive the vaccine. Flu shots are routinely available at Doctor’s offices, urgent care facilities and pharmacies. Many larger employers engage the services of companies who go to employer locations to provide flu shots to employees.
For more information, reach out to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or contact Keller Stonebraker for assistance.