How do People Get the Flu?
The flu, or influenza, is a highly contagious respiratory tract infection that is caused by the influenza virus. The virus spreads from person to person, usually through sneezing and coughing, but also by touching the nose or mouth after contact with an object that was contaminated with the virus.
Symptoms include: headache, extreme fatigue, dry cough, sore throat, a fever of 101° F or greater, and achy muscles. Children (and some adults) may also experience nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting. Although symptoms usually become noticeable a few days after being infected, a person is contagious almost immediately—often before they even realize they are sick. The flu is so easily spread because of how delayed symptoms can be.
When someone considered at “high-risk” with a chronic illness or an immune disorder gets the flu, it may be dangerous and even life-threatening. These people are much more likely to get flu-related complications such as pneumonia or bronchitis that often result in hospitalization. The flu will often cause chronic illnesses to exacerbate: for example, asthmatics who get the flu may experience asthma attacks.
Because of this increased risk, it is incredibly important for those with conditions such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease, cystic fibrosis, cancer, or HIV/AIDS to protect themselves against the flu by getting vaccinated.
Why You Should Get Vaccinated
Flu vaccines work by causing antibodies to develop in the body, providing protection against infection as soon as two weeks after being vaccinated. The more people get vaccinated, the less likely they are to spread the flu to other people.
What we refer to as “flu season,” which begins in October and often extends until April, is approaching. Anyone 6 months of age or older should get a flu vaccination on an annual basis. The only people who might not be able to get vaccinated are those with severe allergies or Guillain-Barre Syndrome: ask your doctor first if you have either of these conditions.
When to Get Vaccinated
You should get vaccinated whenever the flu vaccine becomes available, which is usually in the beginning of October and sometimes as early as September. Schedule an appointment with your primary care physician to get your flu vaccine.
Besides getting vaccinated, there are also extra precautions you should take to avoid getting the flu:
- Washing hands frequently with soap and warm water
- Cleaning and disinfecting surfaces at home, school, and work
- Avoid sharing utensils or clothing with someone who is sick without washing thoroughly first
- Avoid touching your nose, eyes, or mouth
- Avoid close contact with sick people in general
At Bhat Internal Medicine, your health and wellbeing is always our first priority. Protect yourself against the flu this season by getting vaccinated, especially if you have a chronic or complex medical condition. Give us a call today at 520-290-9151 to schedule an appointment with Arizona’s leading internal medicine specialists.