ENQUIRER: Flu season is here and everyone is susceptible Thursday November 7, 2013 To download a pdf of this article, please click here. Enquirer By: Toni Schklar Influenza (flu) is a contagious respiratory disease that infects the nose, throat and lungs. It can lead to pneumonia, bronchitis and death for people who are already medically compromised. It can cause certain health conditions to become worse (diabetes, asthma, and heart and lung disease). The flu is contagious Most healthy adults may be able to infect others beginning one day before symptoms develop and up to 5-7 days after becoming sick. Children may pass the virus for longer than seven days. How flu spreads People with flu can spread it to others up to about 6 feet away. Flu viruses are spread mainly by droplets made when people with flu cough, sneeze or talk. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs. A person might also get flu by touching a surface or object that has flu virus on it and then touching their own mouth or nose. Signs and symptoms People who have the flu often feel some or all of these signs and symptoms. Symptoms start 1-4 days after the virus enters the body. Some persons can be infected with the flu virus but have no symptoms. During this time, those persons may still spread the virus to others. Fever* or feeling feverish/chills Cough Sore throat Runny or stuffy nose Muscle or body aches Headaches Fatigue (very tired) Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea (more common in children than adults). *Note: not everyone with flu will have a fever. Prevention: Flu viruses are constantly changing, and different flu viruses circulate and cause illness each season. The annual flu vaccine is updated each year to protect against the new flu viruses. This is why everyone six months and older should get a flu vaccine every year. Stay away from sick people and wash your hands to reduce the spread of germs. If you are sick with flu, stay home from work or school to prevent spreading the virus to others. Why a yearly vaccine? A person’s immune protection from vaccination declines over time so a yearly vaccination is needed for optimal protection. When to get vaccinated? The timing of flu is very unpredictable and can vary from season to season. Flu activity most commonly peaks in the U.S. in January or February. However, seasonal flu activity can begin as early as October and continue to occur as late as May. Get the flu vaccine as soon as it becomes available; the protection you get from vaccination will last throughout the flu season. Questions about the flu vaccine? Talk with your physician to discuss flu immunization questions that are specific for you and your family. Get updated information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) at www.cdc.gov/flu NOTE: Contact your physician if you think you have the flu. There are medications (antivirals) that may be able to lessen the intensity of flu symptoms if administered at the beginning of the flu. Your physician can also oversee your care to prevent complications with other physical concerns you may have.