Influenza is a contagious respiratory
disease that can be prevented by immunization. It is caused
by a virus that attacks the nose, throat, and lungs.
Influenza symptoms come quickly in the form of fever, dry
cough, sore throat, headache, extreme tiredness, nasal
congestion, and body aches. These symptoms can be severe and
put you in bed for a number of days.
Influenza is not the “stomach flu” (diarrhea and vomiting)
and is not the same as a bad cold. A cold generally stays up
in the head while the flu brings body aches, fever, and
Influenza is a serious disease. People die of the flu every
year, and many are hospitalized with serious complications.
The very young and very old, plus those with chronic health
conditions, are most likely to be hospitalized or die of the
Remember, influenza is a serious disease
that causes misery, hospitalizations, and even death each
year in the U.S. The flu season in Washington begins in
October and often peaks in March or even April. Flu
vaccination will protect you for the season, as well as
people you come in contact with. Flu shots that aren't
used this season are simply wasted since the vaccine has to
be reformulated every year to match the circulating strains.
Plus, providers with vaccine left over lose money and may
not order as many doses next year.
As last year's
shortage showed, our nation's flu vaccine supply system is
fragile. It depended on just two major vendors, one of which
was not able to deliver vaccine last year. It would help if
every eligible person got a flu shot every year.
Getting a flu shot every year will not only protect you and
the people around you, but will also help strengthen the
nation's annual flu supply system. If you are at high risk
for complications of the flu, or if you live with and care
for someone who is, you are especially encouraged to seek a
FluMist, the intranasal flu vaccine, is a
viable option for healthy 2 to 49 year-olds.
Healthy people age 2-49 may be eligible for the FluMist
nasal influenza vaccine.
See FluMist.com for
The first case of flu is often identified
in Washington in October or November. Widespread flu activity appears 6-10 weeks after the first
case. You need a flu shot each year to get the latest
protection. Flu vaccination usually begins in September and
October in Washington, and continues through March or April.
Your flu shot takes 1-2 weeks to take effect.
Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue
when you cough or sneeze, and dispose of the tissue
afterward. If you don't have a tissue, cough or sneeze into
your sleeve. Clean your hands after you cough or sneeze with
soap and warm water or an alcohol-based hand cleaner.
Handwashing is one of the most
important things you can do to keep from getting sick and
from spreading germs to others.
If you get the flu, avoid exposing others. Stay home from
work or school until your fever is gone, and you feel ready
to resume normal activities.
The related links below provides more
information on Influenza and printed materials:
Get a pneumococcal shot if you're over 65 years of age,
or have a chronic health condition, since one of the main
complications of influenza is pneumonia. For more
Pneumococcal Polysaccharide Vaccine (PPV), What You Need to
Know [PDF] from the CDC.
Antiviral medicines are used for treatment and prevention of
influenza. Supplies of antivirals are limited and are for
use in people who are at high risk for complications of
influenza. Antivirals are most often used to help
contain influenza outbreaks in setting such as nursing homes
or to protect a high-risk person who is in direct contact
with someone who has influenza.
There are risks in
taking antivirals. Some people have serious side effects
from them. Antivirals must be taken quickly, within
24-48 hours of being exposed to influenza or onset of
symptoms. If you have questions about antivirals, talk
to your doctor.