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Dr. Melissa Hershberg breaks down the flu and it's symptoms
What is the flu/what are the symptoms/how does it spread?
It’s a contagious upper respiratory tract illness caused by the influenza virus.
Symptoms are: Fever/chills, headache, cough, sore throat, muscle aches, fatigue, and sometimes vomiting and diarrhea but not often. It’s sometimes hard to tell the difference between the common cold and the flu. Typically the cold is milder and has more runny nose, whereas the flu is more severe and people tend to be extremely fatigued with muscle aches, fever and dry cough.
Although most healthy people can fight off the flu and symptoms resolve within a week, sometimes it can lead to pneumonia, hospitalizations and even death especially in high risk people. Over the past 30 years, it is estimated that there have been anywhere between 3,000 to 50,000 flu related deaths per year.
Typically it’s spread by mucus droplets that travel from sneezing, talking and coughing. It can also be transferred from hands. This is why it’s important to wash your hands frequently and cover your mouth when coughing or sneezing. People are typically contagious from about 1 day before their symptoms start to 3-5 days after. Because it’s highly contagious the best way to prevent it is with the flu shot.
What’s the flu shot? How does it work? How is it decided what makes up the flu shot?
The flu shot contains inactive (dead) flu virus and it causes our body to develop antibodies to the flu viruses so that we can better fight it off if we’re exposed. Because the flu viruses in the flu shot are dead, you CANNOT get the flu from the flu shot. It’s always trivalent, meaning it consists of the 3 strains of flu viruses believed to be most contagious and problematic during the upcoming flu season. This season the three viruses are: H1N1, H3N2, and B virus strains.
Before the flu season begins, experts from CDC and WHO and others study which influenza virus strains are most likely be problematic. This year the flu shot is made up of a combination of:
HINI like virus (same as 2011/2012)
H3N2 like virus (new version)
B virus (new version)
The decision is made based on which influenza viruses are being found, how they’re spreading and how the previous flu shots have protected against them.
Who should get the flu shot?
Recommended for everyone 6 months of age and older. It is especially recommended for people are risk for complications from the flu: the elderly (65 and older), young children (5 and younger), pregnant women, and people with certain health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer, HIV, and asthma or lung disease. These people are more likely to develop complications from the flu because they have weaker immune systems. It’s also recommended for people who work or live closely with high risk individuals, i.e. health care workers, family members of people with chronic medical conditions.
When should people get the flu shot?
Flu season typically starts in Oct so this is the best time to get the flu shot.
Who shouldn’t get the flu shot?
What are side effects of flu shot?
How to Avoid the Flu: