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Health Department

Influenza

flu
What is influenza?

Influenza is a respiratory illness that can be easily transmitted from person to person by sneezing, coughing or direct contact. While it usually causes mild to moderate symptoms in healthy persons, it can be deadly, especially in infants and the elderly. It is caused by the influenza virus, which has small genetic changes from year to year. When large changes in the virus occur, there is potential for a pandemic (worldwide) flu epidemic.

How is influenza transmitted?

The influenza virus is transmitted through respiratory droplets that form and are expelled when an infected person sneezes or coughs. The virus may also be transmitted via direct contact (i.e., an infected person touches their nose or mouth, and then touches another person). A person can be contagious one day before the onset of symptoms, and up to seven daysafter they start to feel sick.

What are the symptoms of influenza?

  •  High fever
  •  Cough
  •  Sore throat
  •  Headache
  •  Body aches
  •  Runny nose
  •  Tiredness (may be extreme)
  •  Diarrhea and vomiting (usually seen in children)

These symptoms are similar to many other upper respiratory illnesses, especially the common cold. The easy way to distinguish influenza from the common cold is the sudden onset and high fever of the flu; these are usually absent in colds.

How is influenza treated?

Because the flu is caused by a virus and not a bacterium, antibiotics are not effective against influenza. There are four antiviral medications (amantidine, rimantidine, zanamavir, and oseltamivir) that have been shown to be effective in shortening the length and severity of flu illness, but must be taken within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms. The drugs are only available by a doctor's prescription, so it's important to seek immediate medical attention.

How can I prevent influenza?

The easiest and best way to prevent becoming ill with the flu is to receive the flu vaccine every fall.

Other ways you can keep from getting sick include:

  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze-throw the tissue away after you use it.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. If you are not near water, use an alcohol-based hand cleaner.
  • Stay away as much as you can from people who are sick.
  • If you get the flu, stay home from work or school. If you are sick, do not go near other people so that you don't make them sick too.
  • Try not to touch your eyes, nose, or mouth. Germs often spread this way.

For information on Avian Influenza click here.

CDC Info on influenza:

http://www.cdc.gov/flu/

CDC Info on avian influenza:

http://www.cdc.gov/flu/avian/index.htm

"Pink Book on Immunization" chapter on influenza:

http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/pubs/pinkbook/downloads/flu.pdf

WHO: Preparing for pandemic influenza

http://www.who.int/csr/disease/influenza/pandemic/en/

What is influenza?

Influenza is a respiratory illness that can be easily transmitted from person to person by sneezing, coughing or direct contact. While it usually causes mild to moderate symptoms in healthy persons, it can be deadly, especially in infants and the elderly. It is caused by the influenza virus, which has small genetic changes from year to year. When large changes in the virus occur, there is potential for a pandemic (worldwide) flu epidemic.

How is influenza transmitted?

The influenza virus is transmitted through respiratory droplets that form and are expelled when an infected person sneezes or coughs. The virus may also be transmitted via direct contact (i.e., an infected person touches their nose or mouth, and then touches another person). A person can be contagious one day before the onset of symptoms, and up to seven daysafter they start to feel sick.

What are the symptoms of influenza?

 

  •  High fever
  •  Cough
  •  Sore throat
  •  Headache
  •  Body aches
  •  Runny nose
  •  Tiredness (may be extreme)
  •  Diarrhea and vomiting (usually seen in children)

These symptoms are similar to many other upper respiratory illnesses, especially the common cold. The easy way to distinguish influenza from the common cold is the sudden onset and high fever of the flu; these are usually absent in colds.

How is influenza treated?

Because the flu is caused by a virus and not a bacterium, antibiotics are not effective against influenza. There are four antiviral medications (amantidine, rimantidine, zanamavir, and oseltamivir) that have been shown to be effective in shortening the length and severity of flu illness, but must be taken within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms. The drugs are only available by a doctor's prescription, so it's important to seek immediate medical attention.

How can I prevent influenza?

The easiest and best way to prevent becoming ill with the flu is to receive the flu vaccine every fall.

Other ways you can keep from getting sick include:

  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze-throw the tissue away after you use it.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. If you are not near water, use an alcohol-based hand cleaner.
  • Stay away as much as you can from people who are sick.
  • If you get the flu, stay home from work or school. If you are sick, do not go near other people so that you don't make them sick too.
  • Try not to touch your eyes, nose, or mouth. Germs often spread this way.

For information on Avian Influenza click here.

CDC Info on influenza:

http://www.cdc.gov/flu/

CDC Info on avian influenza:

http://www.cdc.gov/flu/avian/index.htm

"Pink Book on Immunization" chapter on influenza:

http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/pubs/pinkbook/downloads/flu.pdf

WHO: Preparing for pandemic influenza

http://www.who.int/csr/disease/influenza/pandemic/en/