Protect your loved ones
during flu season! The flu is a contagious respiratory
illness caused by influenza viruses. It can cause mild
to severe illness, and at times can lead to death. The
best way to prevent the flu is by getting a flu vaccination
Influenza is a respiratory virus that causes seasonal flu
each year during the winter months. It is characterized by
fever, chills, body aches, headache, runny nose, cough and
occasional diarrhea. It is primarily an Infection of the
respiratory tract (breathing tubes and lungs). In some
persons, complications of influenza can be severe, which can
include pneumonia and death.
Influenza is spread from person to person primarily
through “respiratory secretions,” the same way other common
respiratory infections spread. Adults can spread influenza
virus one day before symptoms appear and up to five days
after the onset of illness.
Respiratory secretions are virus-containing droplets (such
as spit or mucous) that are spread when infected persons
cough or sneeze. These droplets can then land on the
surfaces of the mouth, nose, and throat of persons who are
near (i.e., within 3 feet) the ill person. The virus may
also be spread through contact with the infectious
respiratory secretions on the hands of an infected person
and other objects and surfaces.
Masks are recommended for use in health care settings by
ill persons and healthcare workers to prevent spread of
infection. Masks are most useful when worn by the person
with symptoms. At this time, masks are not recommended for
use by well persons in the community. There is no guarantee
that masks would prevent the spread of the infection in the
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing and
sneezing. Dispose of tissue in the nearest waste receptacle.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water. The key is to
wash thoroughly with warm water, and to wash frequently.
When hand washing is not possible, use antiseptic hand gels
that contain alcohol.
- Avoid close contact with ill persons and stay home when you
- Get a flu shot, if you can.
Yes, wipe down any surfaces that may have been
contaminated by saliva or other respiratory secretions.
However, since you may not know that the previous person had
influenza, it is always better to make sure you wash your
Influenza viruses are known to survive on non-porous
surfaces such as steel and plastic, for up to 24 to 48 hours
after inoculation and from cloth, paper, and tissues for up
to 8 to 12 hours. Viable virus can be transferred from
non-porous surfaces to hands for 24 hours and from tissues
to hands for 15 minutes.
Use a household disinfectant labeled for activity against
bacteria and viruses, an EPA-registered hospital
disinfectant, or mix and useĽ cup chlorine bleach with 1
gallon of cool water.
Vaccine production is a complicated and lengthy process.
The process begins in the spring and vaccine virus is grown
in eggs. The virus is then harvested and killed before
manufacturing it into vaccine. Production can take from 6 –
9 months. Options to speed up the production of influenza
vaccine are currently being evaluated by the US government.
The influenza virus changes a little bit each year so
that no one is 100% immune from it. Influenza may cause
illness that lasts up to 10 days. Although the vaccine is
recommended highly for persons with high risk of
complications to flu, the vaccine works best in healthy
individuals. Having more healthy individuals vaccinated
against influenza decreases the likelihood of high-risk
folks exposed to flu.
Flumist is a newer flu vaccine that came out about 3
years ago. It is sprayed into the nose, one nostril at a
time. It is approved for use in healthy persons ages 5 – 49.
Since it is a live, weakened virus, it is not recommended
for use in patients who are immune compromised or their
There are four antiviral agents approved for use in the
United States: Amantadine, Rimantadine, Oseltamivir, and
Zanamivir. They are usually prescribed by physicians for
persons at high risk of complications from influenza. The
older antivirals, Amantadine and Rimantadine, are approved
for use for treatment as well as prevention after exposure
to influenza A. The newer antivirals, Oseltamivir (Tamiflu)
and Zanamivir can be used to treat Influenza A and B. In
addition, Tamiflu can also be used to prevent influenza if
taken early after exposure.
statistics, reports, and maps of current
flu activity throughout the nation.
provided by the Centers for Disease Control
and Prevention (CDC) Site -