Flu season has arrived. The flu season typically peaks from late November through May. The major influenza strain in the United States currently is the H1N1 virus. The H1N1 virus caused the 2009-2010 swine flu pandemic.
What is the Flu?
Influenza (also called the Flu) is a highly contagious respiratory illness caused by the influenza viruses. These viruses infect the nose, throat and lungs. The flu can cause from mild to severe/life-threatening illness.
Typical Symptoms of the Flu may include:
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Sore throat
- Muscle aches
The flu viruses are spread by coughing, sneezing or close contact to an infected individual.
There are simple steps that can be taken to help reduce getting the flu:
- Wash your hands often.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
- Cover coughs and sneezes with your sleeve or a tissue
- Avoid contact with others that are sick.
- Stay home when you are sick.
In addition to the above, maintain good health habits:
- Eat a balanced diet.
- Drink lots of fluids.
- Keep physically active.
- Obtain 7-9 hours of sleep nightly.
- Reduce/manage stress.
The best way to prevent the flu is to receive the yearly flu shot (vaccine). It is advised to obtain your flu shot as soon as the flu vaccine is available, and ideally by October. It is not too late to be vaccinated now. As the flu viruses change from year to year, it is important to receive the flu shot annually.
The flu vaccine is produced to protect against the influenza strains that research indicates will most likely cause illness during this flu season. No flu shot will protect against all influenza viruses. Be aware, it takes about 2 weeks for protection to develop after the vaccination.
The CDC advises that everyone who is at least 6 months of age should receive the flu vaccine this season. It is important to consider that pregnant women are considered to be at high risk for developing serious complications if they become ill with the flu. The flu vaccine is safe and effective for almost all patients. Be sure to check with your healthcare provider if there are any reasons you should not receive the Flu vaccine. It is important to know that you cannot get the flu from the flu vaccine.
Women who are or will be pregnant during influenza season should receive the Inactivated Influenza Vaccine (IIV) flu shot. The Live attenuated influenza vaccine (LAIV), available as a nasal spray, is not recommended for use during pregnancy.
Where can I get my Flu shot? The 2013-14 Flu vaccine is now available. The currently available flu vaccines are formulated to protect against the H1N1 influenza strain.
Contact your healthcare provider or health plan for information about obtaining a flu vaccination. Many retail pharmacies and stores also have Flu vaccine available. You may also check with your local county health department for Flu vaccine clinic availability and locations.
For more information about the flu, visit www.flu.gov.
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