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Thursday, January 19, 2012

Influenza (Flu)

Although flu season is off to a slow start nationwide, it’s a good idea to be prepared and to recognize the symptoms in case you do come down with the flu.

Symptoms of the flu come on suddenly and are worse than those of the common cold. They may include
  • Body or muscle aches
  • Chills
  • Cough
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Sore throat

Influenza, or flu, is a respiratory infection caused by several different kinds of flu viruses.

Here are descriptions of 3 types for flu from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases:

Seasonal Flu

Seasonal flu is the term used to refer to the flu outbreaks that occur yearly, mainly in the late fall and winter. Researchers estimate that between 5 and 20 percent of Americans come down with the flu every flu season.

Pandemic Flu

Pandemic flu refers to particularly virulent strains of flu that spread rapidly from person to person to create a world-wide epidemic (pandemic).

Avian (Bird) Flu

In nature, the flu virus also occurs in wild aquatic birds such as ducks and shore birds. It does not normally spread from birds to humans. However, pigs can be infected by bird influenza (as well as by the form of influenza that affects humans) and can pass on the flu to humans. In 1997, researchers discovered that a virulent bird influenza had skipped the pig step and had infected humans directly, causing a number of deaths in Asia.


There are many things you can do to protect yourself from the flu:

•Wash your hands often with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub.
•Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth since this spreads germs.
•Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
•Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze and then throw the tissue away immediately.
•If you are sick with flu-like illness, stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone without the use of fever-reducing medicine.


Over-the-counter medications may relieve some flu symptoms.
Your health care provider may prescribe antiviral medications to make your illness milder and prevent serious complications.
Your health care provider may prescribe antibiotics if your flu has progressed to a bacterial infection.

Treating flu symptoms without medications:
Get plenty of rest
Drink clear fluids like water, broth, sports drinks, or electrolyte beverages to prevent becoming dehydrated
Put a humidifier in your room/house to make breathing easier
Gargle salt water (1:1 ratio warm water to salt) to soothe a sore throat
Cover up with a warm blanket to calm chills

For more information on the flu, check out these sites:

Flu (Influenza) (National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases)

Flu.gov (Dept. of Health and Human Services)

Key Facts about Influenza (Flu) and Flu Vaccine (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

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