Influenza "The Flu"
Submitted by Dr. Rex Head, Wellness Committee
March 11, 1999
It may seem strange to write an article about influenza after the epidemic is almost over. But I imagine that if I would have written one before the epidemic no one would have paid much attention. Maybe now after most people have either been very sick or know someone who was very sick with the flu, it will hold a little more interest.
I don't know if there is any other disease that is so common but yet so commonly misunderstood. I don't know how many times over the last month I have told someone that they have the flu only to have them respond, "It can't be the flue, my stomach feels fine." It seems that everyone confuses the flue, (or influenza), with stomach flu, (or gastroenteritis).
The following are facts on the flu:
What is influenza? Influenza is a virus. There are three types of influenza (A, B, and C). Influenza types A and B cause respiratory illnesses.
What are the symptoms and how soon do they occur after exposure to an ill person?
Illness will usually begin very suddenly 1-5 days after exposure and commonly lasts 2-7 days. Symptoms usually include fever, cough, headache, muscle aches, and fatigue.
When does influenza occur? Influenza occurs in the late fall and winter in the U.S.
Who can get influenza? Anyone. Persons at highest risk for sever illness are the elderly, the very young, and those with chronic medical problems such as heart or lung conditions, diabetes, or trouble with their immune system.
How is influenza spread? Influenza is spared from an ill person to other people by coughing and sneezing.
Is there a treatment for influenza? Persons with influenza should rest and drink lots of fluids. Influenza A may respond to treatment with amantadine or rimantadine.
Is there a vaccine for influenza? Yes. Different strains of influenza circulate at different times. A new vaccine is issued each flu season. People who need to vaccine should get the vaccination every year. People who are at risk for getting a serious case of influenza or a complication should get the vaccine. The also includes anyone who has close contact with people who are at risk for getting a serious case of influenza, and anyone who wishes to avoid getting the flu.
How can you prevent the spread of influenza? Persons who are ill with fever and cough should stay home. They should not go to school or work. They could easily spread the disease to other people. People should cover their mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing.