Medical Moment: What Is The Flu?

 

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Answer by Eric Johnson

Eric C. Johnson, Primary Care Practice Manager, Family Nurse Practitioner

Eric C. Johnson, Primary Care Practice Manager, Board-certified Family Nurse Practitioner

Flu season is just around the corner. Have you and your family received your Flu vaccine yet? If not it is not too late.

First a reminder as to exactly what the Flu or Influenza is and is not:

The Flu Is: a respiratory illness characterized by high fever, cough, nasal congestion body aches and headache.

The Flu Is Not: nausea vomiting and diarrhea, commonly called stomach flu.

Influenza is caused by one or more viruses that circulate through the northern hemisphere every winter (it is present in equatorial regions all year).  Every year the mix of circulating viruses change and the annual Flu vaccines change to try and match the that year’s particular strains. This is why yearly vaccination is recommended.

Influenza can be a serious illness, particularly in children and older adults. Currently there is minimal influenza activity in the United States, meaning this is a good time to get immunized.  Every year an average of over 200,000 people are hospitalized with influenza and some years this has reached almost a half a million hospitalizations. Additionally up to 49,000 deaths have occurred form influenza, mostly in the old and young.

The main way that influenza viruses are thought to spread is from person to person in respiratory droplets of coughs and sneezes.  It can also be picked up from contaminated surfaces. This makes influenza an illness that can be difficult to avoid.

The current recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control is that every one get immunized.  Some groups, as previously noted, are at higher risk and should be encouraged to get immunized. This includes the elderly, the very young, pregnant women, persons with heart and lung diseases as well as diabetes and those who will be around infants less than 6 months of age.

The influenza vaccine is indicated for use in anyone greater than 6 months of age. The vaccines come in various formulations and the proper vaccine for every person should be discussed with their health care provider.

So do not wait until it is too late. Get immunized against the Flu today!

Editor’s note: The Telluride Medical Center is the only 24-hour emergency facility within 65 miles. As a mountain town in a challenging, remote environment, a thriving medical center is vital to our community’s health.

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