Influenza is a viral infection. It that causes many symptoms that can range from mild (runny nose, cough) to severe (pneumonia and respiratory failure).
Did you know that about 30,000 people die from influenza infection every year in the United States alone!
The virus develops changes in its genes. That’s the reason that the vaccine changes every year and why we recommend yearly influenza vaccines. Even if the influenza vaccine is not a perfect match for the dominant circulating strain, it can still offer protection from more severe illness.
These are tips to keep you and your family healthy this year:
Flu season: Get vaccinated
The current influenza vaccine protects against 4 different strains of influenza, 2 influenza A strains and 2 influenza B strains. It takes about two weeks for the body’s immune system to make protective proteins (antibodies) so get vaccinated now! And no, the influenza vaccine CANNOT give you the flu.
Cover your cough and sneeze
Influenza is spread by droplets that carry the influenza virus. They can travel in the air and land on people or object surfaces. If the virus comes in contact with mucous membranes (lining of nose, mouth, eyes) or is inhaled, it can cause infection.
Wash your hands
Influenza can live on surfaces for hours, which can then contaminate hands that touch our faces and get onto our mucous membranes. Wash hands with alcohol sanitizers or soap and water often, as this can get rid of the virus if it gets on your hands.
Stay home if you are sick
If you have symptoms of influenza like illness (fever, cough, runny nose, headache, poor appetite), stay home to give your body a chance to rest and recover and to decrease the risk of spread to others.
Cindy Dion Noyes, MD, is an infectious disease specialist at the University of Vermont Medical Center.