Are you experiencing a cough, sore throat, runny nose, fever and/or muscle or body aches? If so, it’s possible that you could have the flu. These are just some of the symptoms that usually start suddenly, not gradually, to indicate that you have the illness.
The flu, also known as influenza, is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses that infect the nose, throat, and sometimes the lungs. It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death. A total of 53 influenza-associated pediatric deaths for the 2017-2018 season have been reported to CDC. Due to the flu’s contagious nature, it is imperative that measures are taken to prevent the spreading of the illness especially to children younger than 5, adults 65 and older, and pregnant women, to list a few.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends a yearly flu vaccine as the first and most important step in protecting against flu viruses. The flu vaccination can reduce flu illness, doctors’ visits, and missed work and school due to the flu, as well as prevent flu-related hospitalizations. The CDC advises that everyone 6 months of age and older should get the flu vaccine. Although the flu season began late fall last year and the CDC recommends everyone get their vaccine by the end of October, if you have not yet received your vaccine, you should. It’s not too late. The vaccine can still be helpful. Flu activity will continue for several more weeks and will take time to diminish.
The CDC also recommends that in addition to getting vaccinated, there are everyday precautions you can take to prevent the spread of the flu. If you are experiencing flu-like symptoms, it is recommended that you stay home and do not go to work for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities. The CDC notes that your fever should be gone for 24 hours without the use of a fever-reducing medicine. It is reported that most healthy adults may be able to infect other people beginning 1 day before symptoms develop and up to 5 to 7 days after becoming sick. Children may pass the virus for longer than 7 days. Symptoms start 1 to 4 days after the virus enters the body. That means that you may be able to pass on the flu to someone else before you know you are sick, as well as while you are sick. Some people can be infected with the flu virus but have no symptoms. During this time, those persons may still spread the virus to others. Due to the fact that some may be spreading the illness without even knowing they are ill, other precautionary measures you can take include:
- Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
- While sick, limit contact with others as much as possible to keep from infecting them.
- Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Germs spread this way.
- Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs like the flu.
The flu is spreading like wildfire through 49 out of 50 states, but it’s not just affecting humans. Canines and cats are experiencing their own strain of the flu. According to the American Veterinary Medical Foundation (AVMF) canine influenza (CI), or dog flu, is a highly contagious viral infection affecting dogs and also cats. It is easily spread from infected dogs to other dogs by direct contact, nasal secretions (through barking, coughing or sneezing), contaminated objects (kennel surfaces, food and water bowls, collars and leashes), and by people moving between infected and uninfected dogs. Dogs of any breed, age, sex or health status are at risk of infection when exposed to the virus. The dog flu, either H3N8 or H3N2 strains or both, are currently in 46 out of 50 states. According to Pet MD, a vaccine for the canine flu is currently available, though it should only be considered after speaking with your veterinarian. Any dog that is suspected to have canine influenza should be isolated from other dogs. Those dogs with the mild form of the infection usually recover on their own. Canine influenza is not a contagion issue for humans or other species.
We all know flu season is not done yet. Make sure you continue to take the proper steps to protect yourself, loved ones, your pets and those you come in contact with to help to stop the spread of the flu.
Rachael Wadley, MBA
Roseman University of Health Sciences