Getting to Know the Flu Virus
As the fall and winter seasons approach, so too does the flu season. People sick with the flu often end up staying home, tucked up in bed with a fever, cough, and runny nose. The culprit behind this infection is the Influenza virus, and the infection it causes is commonly known as the ‘flu.’ The illness is usually spread through droplets, which are produced when an infected individual coughs or sneezes. The flu is not the same as the common cold, which is caused by other viruses. Symptoms of the flu tend to start more suddenly, are more severe, and last longer than those of the common cold.
Some of the main symptoms of flu include:
- High grade fever
- Fatigue and weakness
- Muscle or body aches
- Vomiting and diarrhea (more common in children than adults)
What to do if I get flu?
- The best remedy is to rest at home, keep warm and drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration. Paracetamol and ibuprofen can be used for fever control and to relieve muscle aches if necessary.
- Stay off work or school until you are feeling better. For most people, this will take about a week.
- It is important to remember that the flu virus is very contagious, and can be spread one day before symptoms appear and up to 7 days after the initial symptoms. So while you are infectious, try not to spread the virus to others.
When to see a doctor?
Consider visiting your doctor if:
- You’re 65 years of age or over
- You’re pregnant
- You have a long-term medical condition
- You have a weakened immune system
- You develop chest pain or difficulty breathing
- Your symptoms are getting worse over time or haven’t improved after a week
How to prevent the spread of flu?
Minimizing the spread of the virus can be accomplished with good hygiene measures. These include:
-Washing your hands regularly with soap and warm water
-Cleaning surfaces such as your computer keyboard, telephone, and door handles to get rid of germs
-Using tissues to cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze
-Putting used tissues in a bin as soon as possible
Taking an annual flu vaccine is another way to help reduce the risk of becoming infected.
Why do I need a flu vaccine every year?
A flu vaccine is needed every season for two reasons. First, the body’s immune response from vaccination declines over time, so an annual vaccine is needed for optimal protection. Second, because flu viruses are constantly changing, the formulation of the flu vaccine is reviewed each year and sometimes updated to keep up with changing flu viruses. For the best protection, everyone 6 months and older should get vaccinated annually.
Can I get seasonal flu even though I got a flu vaccine this year?
Yes. There is still a possibility you could get the flu even if you got vaccinated. The ability of flu vaccine to protect a person depends on various factors, including the age and health status of the person being vaccinated, and also the similarity or “match” between the viruses used to make the vaccine and those circulating in the community. If the viruses in the vaccine and the influenza viruses circulating in the community are closely matched, vaccine effectiveness is higher. If they are not closely matched, vaccine effectiveness can be reduced. However, it’s important to remember that even when the viruses are not closely matched, the vaccine can still protect many people.