Your throat hurts, you can’t stop sneezing, and you have a fever. It’s much worse than the common cold–you’ve got influenza, or the flu. With a few days of rest, you should get better. Unfortunately for some–especially pregnant women, small children and older adults–influenza can be deadly. Everyone should take steps to prevent the spread of the flu.
Influenza symptoms include feeling tired and weak, body aches, headaches, as well as symptoms commonly associated with a cold, such as coughing, sore throat and a runny nose, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Some people may get a fever. Children with influenza can get a fever up to 105 degrees F, according to MayoClinic.com. Children may also vomit or have diarrhea when they get the flu. Influenza symptoms tends to hit a person suddenly instead of building up over a period of days.
According to MayoClinic.com, three types of influenza virus–labeled A, B and C–exist. Types A and B are considered the seasonal flu by the CDC and are linked to pandemics, while type C causes mild symptoms. Type A and B influenza viruses constantly mutate, so that even if a person has had type A influenza one year, he is at risk of contracting it again if the virus has mutated. The swine flu, or H1N1, first discovered in 2009, is a mutation of a type A virus.
Healthy people who end up with the flu usually fully recover after a few days. A person who has a weakened immune system, respiratory problems, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma or is over age 65, may be at risk for complications from influenza. Complications can include ear and sinus infections or a worsening of a chronic condition. Pneumonia is a serious complication that can lead to death in some cases.
Influenza spreads when a person with the virus sneezes or coughs into the air. According to the CDC, the virus travels in the liquid droplets produced by a cough or sneeze. Another person can contract the flu if a droplet lands in or near a mucous membrane or opening, such as the mouth or nose. A person may also get the flu if she touches a surface that has come contact with the virus and then wipes her mouth, nose or eyes.
An influenza vaccine is available every year for people over the age of 6 months. A new vaccine is released yearly to combat new strains that have developed. Everyone who can should get a flu vaccine, according to the CDC, especially people who are at risk for serious complications. People can also protect themselves against the virus by washing their hands often and by maintaining a healthy lifestyle, including eating right and exercising frequently, according to MayoClinic.com.
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