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Influenza


Monday, February 6, 2012
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Influenza is an illness that affects people of all ages worldwide. Symptoms range from mild to severe, and it is a major health issue around the world. Everyone can help fight the spread of influenza each year by getting vaccinated. Vaccination is also one of the best ways to reduce your chance of getting ill.

What is influenza?

Influenza is an illness caused by viruses that infect the nose, throat, and lungs. A virus is a tiny organism that lives in the cells of humans, animals, and plants. The flu virus is always changing and that allows it to continue to infect humans. Most people get the flu during the colder seasons, beginning in October and lasting through the spring. Influenza can be spread in the air when people with the virus cough or sneeze, or a person can become infected by touching a surface with the virus on it and then touching the mouth or eyes.

Who gets influenza?

Anybody can get influenza! But, some people are more likely to become very sick with influenza. Those at highest risk include: young children, people over 65 years, pregnant women, and people who are already sick with disease like pneumonia, asthma, chronic lung disease, HIV, heart disease and diabetes.

What are the signs and symptoms of influenza?

Influenza symptoms include a sore throat, runny nose, and cough. People with influenza also feel very tired and may have a fever, chills, and body aches. Children who have influenza may have different symptoms than adults, like diarrhea and vomiting in addition to the other symptoms. Influenza symptoms usually come on very suddenly.

How is influenza treated?

Most of the time, influenza can be treated at home. It is important to rest and to drink plenty of water. Stay home while you are sick and for at least 24 hours after the fever is gone so you do not get other people sick. Sometimes influenza can be severe. If a person is having trouble breathing, feeling dizzy or confused or having chest or abdominal pain they should go to the hospital. In some cases doctors may also give medications to help your body fight the virus.

How can I prevent influenza?

The most important way to prevent the flu is to get vaccinated! Everyone 6 months and older should get the influenza vaccine every year. The influenza vaccine reduces the chances of getting the flu. The vaccine may be given as a shot in the arm or as a spray in the nose. Talk with your doctor if you have an egg allergy or if you have had a reaction to the vaccine in the past. As the influenza season is currently approaching, it is important to get vaccinated now!

Other ways to avoid getting sick are:

• Clean your hands often with soap and water, or an alcohol-based hand cleaner.

• Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.

• Avoid close contact with people who are sick, if possible.

Places Providing Influenza Vaccination:

To find a clinic near you, visit our website at mdhflu.com and click on “Find a Flu Clinic”.

Note: Special thanks to the University of Minnesota Medical Students and the Minnesota Department of Health Immunization Program for their contributions.

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