What is the Flu?
Influenza (also known as the flu) is a contagious respiratory illness caused by flu viruses. Two basic types of virus circulate in the United States, group A and group B. Influenza A may cause moderate to severe illness in all age groups and infects humans and other animals. Influenza B causes milder symptoms and affects only humans, primarily children.
How Do I Get the Flu?
The flu is spread through the air from the respiratory tract of a person who has the flu, like through coughing and sneezing. It can also be spread by direct contact with respiratory droplets. This is why it is very important that people cover their coughs and sneezes with a tissue or by coughing or sneezing into their elbow and protect themselves from the flu by washing their hands often.
Usually, people with the flu have symptoms including a sudden fever, aching muscles, sore throat, and dry cough. Other symptoms may include runny nose, headache, a burning sensation in the chest, and eye pain and sensitivity to light. Typical influenza disease does not occur in every infected person. Someone who has been previously exposed to similar virus strains (through natural infection or immunization) is less likely to become seriously ill.
Preventing the Flu
Vaccination is the most effective way to protect yourself, and others, from the flu. Individuals can continue to be vaccinated throughout the course of the flu season. This yearís flu vaccine includes three different strains of the flu virus, including the 2009 H1N1 virus.
Whether you get the flu vaccine or not, there are ways you can avoid the flu this year and stay healthy:
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick. When you are sick, keep your distance from others to protect them from getting sick, too.
- Stay home when you are sick. If possible, stay home from work, school, and errands when you are sick. You will help prevent others from catching your illness.
- Wash your hands often, especially before eating or after touching common surfaces like door knobs or hand rails.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs are often spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches his or her eyes, nose, or mouth.
- Seek care early. See your healthcare provider immediately if you develop flu symptoms; antiviral medications can help if taken early in the illness.
Getting the Flu Vaccine
The CDC is encouraging all people over the age of 6 months old to be vaccinated for the flu.
Some groups are more likely to have complications from the seasonal flu. These include:
- Those age 65 and older
- Children younger than 2 years old
- People of any age who have chronic medical conditions (e.g. diabetes, asthma, congestive heart failure, lung disease)
- Pregnant women
Each year, millions of Americans safely receive seasonal flu vaccines. The benefits of immunization outweigh the risks. All vaccines, including the flu vaccine, are held to the highest standard of safety and are continually monitored.
Not getting vaccinated could result in disease or putting others, such as babies or people with cancer, at serious risk for illness. If you care for a young baby itís important that you get vaccinated so you can protect them.
Where to Get a Flu Vaccine
Seasonal influenza vaccinations usually begin the middle of September, each year. Availability of vaccine depends on FDA licensing and ability of manufacturers to ship vaccine to providers. Most health care providers and community based vaccinators would not be able to administer influenza vaccine until that time.
Check with your usual heath care provider for availability of influenza vaccinations;
Contact the Immunization Program at 860-509-7929 M-F 8-4:30 for assistance in finding a community provider of influenza vaccinations; or,
More information on the seasonal flu vaccine:
Your best defense: The importance of seasonal flu vaccinations - English
Pregnant women and the flu: Pregnancy, the flu and you - English
Home Flu Care