You might know, or have heard about Influenza – or what people generally refer to as “the flu”.
The flu is a respiratory illness, usually contagious in the first few days after being acquired and sometimes, even before the first signs or symptoms appear in the infected person, especially in those with weak immune systems.
The flu is caused by influenza viruses, and it mainly spreads by coughing, sneezing, and being in close contact with others who are sick.
In general, there are three different types of influenza viruses called type A, B, and C. Type C is less harmful than types A and B, and types A and B are the most common types, which cause the flu. People get the influenza virus virus from others who are infected with the influenza viruses. The influenza viruses are usually released from the infected person into the atmosphere air as “droplets”.
When they cough, talk or sneeze, the non-infected person will inhale these droplets, carry the flu virus through their nose or mouth. The virus can also be contracted through touching a surface of the infected person mouth, nose or even their eyes. This is usually the case when a member of the family gets the flu virus – the other members of the family will follow as they also contract it. Such is the case when students are sick with the flu, students cannot attend school until they are cured so as not to infect other students with the highly contagious virus.
Dear reader, it is important for you to recognize the signs and symptoms of the flu early enough to seek care, anyone can get the flu. The flu strikes suddenly and can last several days.
Symptoms could vary from one person to another, and some people might have all or only a few of the symptoms, which can include fever/chills, sore throat, fatigue, cough, headache, and runny or stuffy nose.
Other symptoms can include weakness, severe aches in the joints and muscles and pain around eyes. Sometimes a fever will not occur, making it different from a cold, although the person may feel feverish or have chills. Keep in mind, however, the sign and symptoms of the influenza viruses usually start suddenly and not gradually.
Children on the other hand may have additional signs and symptoms such as diarrhea or vomiting. The flu can also lead to pneumonia and blood infections, and cause diarrhea and seizures in children.
The virus tends to be worse in individuals with preexisting medical conditions, such as heart or lung disease. The flu could be more dangerous for some people. Infants and young children, people 65 years of age and older, pregnant women, and people with certain health conditions or a weakened immune system could be at risk more than others could.
It is critical to recognize the signs early enough to be treated before complications occur. However, most healthy individuals who get the flu might recover in few days without treatment.
Each year thousands of people in the United States die from flu, and many more are hospitalized.
As we always say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and that can be very true with the flu. It is very important to protect yourself and your loved ones from the flu by getting the vaccine. The vaccine plays a major role in avoiding complications, especially among the very young, the elderly and those who have chronic diseases.
Knowing the signs and symptoms will help people to seek medical advice and treatment early to avoid any complications.
Those who get their flu vaccine are less likely to face the complications of the flu. Additionally, if a person still contracts the virus, with the vaccine, they reduce the amount of harm the virus can cause. The vaccination is beneficial for people and the public.
My advice to all people in Michigan or United States is to get the influenza vaccine every year.
The second most important advice to you is to avoid, if possible, close contact with infected individuals.
Also, covering your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing and frequent handwashing can prevent the spread of influenza viruses that cause the flu.
Remember to visit your primary healthcare physician if you feel that you might have the flu. It is important early in the disease process to confirm your illness through testing and confirm if you have really influenza and not just a cold. Your primary healthcare physician can advise you and give you the proper treatment, which might include antiviral drugs, which can treat the influenza virus and help you return to your normal activities within a few days.
Wishing everyone a healthy and prosperous year.
Mada Jamil, MD, MPH is with St. John Macomb-Oakland Hospital in Internal Medicine Physician with an office located at 6055 Nineteen Mile Rd., Sterling Heights, MI 48314. (248) 557-4443