How Serious Is Influenza and How Does the Flu Spread?
If you are experiencing an emergency, call 911.
The severity of the flu, or influenza, varies from each season. The best way to prevent the flu and further complications from it is by getting the flu vaccine. Learn more about the flu shot here.
If you have a combination of flu-like symptoms, along with a sustained fever of more than 102 degrees, then you should seek medical attention immediately:
- Difficulty breathing
- Severe chest or stomach pain.
- Dizziness, vertigo or lightheadedness.
If you have the flu, cover your cough, use good hand-washing techniques, and wear a mask to help prevent the spread of the flu.
The Flu is Not Just a Bad Cold
Some of the symptoms of the flu and a cold are the same; however, many people are hospitalized every year, and even deaths occur due to the flu.
In the U.S., an estimated 36,000 deaths occur yearly, with more than 200,000 hospitalizations. Classic flu symptoms include a fever of up to 104 degrees for five to seven days, runny nose, cough, and body aches (like you got “hit by a bus” body aches).
Sadly, the Centers for Disease Control estimate that anywhere from 35 to 350 children in the U.S. die yearly from the flu. On top of that, approximately 20,000 children in the U.S. are hospitalized each year with complications from the flu, which can include the following:
- Respiratory Failure
- Inflammation of the Heart (myocarditis) or Brain (Encephalitis)
- Overwhelming Infection (Sepsis)
- Multi-Organ System Failure
Some of these complications can lead to permanent disability or even death.
Those with chronic diseases such as asthma, heart disease, or certain neurological diseases are at the highest risk.
Thousands of people per year in the U.S. die from flu complications. The Centers for Disease Control monitors the number of deaths, which changes yearly, and went up to about 56,000 deaths during 2012-2013.
Who Does the Flu Affect the Most?
It can affect people of any age but may be more serious in certain people. Babies, older adults, pregnant mothers, and people with health problems like asthma may have more severe symptoms.
The flu can be a very serious illness for people with chronic medical conditions. People with asthma, heart disease, or certain neurological diseases are at a higher risk of developing flu complications, such as pneumonia, respiratory failure, or sepsis. These complications can lead to permanent disability or even death.
People with a weakened immune system are also at a higher risk of developing severe complications from the flu. This includes people who are receiving cancer treatments or who have HIV/AIDS. Children and adults 65 years of age or older are also considered to be at high risk for complications from the flu.
To protect yourself from the flu, it is important to get vaccinated every year. This can help reduce your risk of virus infection and prevent its spread to others. You should also avoid contact with sick people, wash your hands regularly, and avoid touching your face or mouth if you have not washed your hands.
Why Do We Only Get the Flu in the Winter?
There are a few reasons why we only get the flu during the winter months. One reason is that it is colder outside, and viruses tend to thrive in cold, dry air. Another reason is that people spend more time indoors during the winter months, increasing the chances of spreading illnesses.
Finally, our immune systems may not be as robust during winter, making us more susceptible to infections.
The virus is spread by touching surfaces or inhaling droplets of air that have come in contact with someone who has the flu. Coughing, sneezing, or shaking hands may spread the virus. Influenza is a virus that can spread quickly from person to person. This illness is caused by different strains of viruses that infect the lungs and airways.
The primary way influenza spreads is through contact with an infected person's respiratory secretions, such as coughing or sneezing. It can also be spread through touching contaminated surfaces or objects, like doorknobs or countertops.
People are most likely to become infected if they have close contact with someone who is already sick or if they have not been vaccinated against the flu.