What is the Flu?
Influenza, more commonly known as the flu, is a serious disease. It is caused by a virus that spreads from infected persons to the nose or throat of others. Anyone can get the flu. Most people are ill with the flu for only a few days, but some get much sicker and may need to be hospitalized. It is estimated that each year in the U.S, there are more than 20,000 children less than 5 years old are hospitalized due to flu. Additionally, the flu causes thousands of deaths each year, mostly among the elderly.
Flu seasons vary in timing, severity, and duration from one season to another. This is why getting a flu shot each year is crucial, and can help save your life.
What are the Symptoms of the Flu?
The influenza virus attacks the respiratory tract in humans (nose, throat, and lungs). Unlike the common cold, the flu usually comes on suddenly and may include these symptoms:
- Severe (usually high) fever
- Tiredness (can be extreme)
- Dry cough
- Sore throat
- Nasal congestion
- Body aches
Symptoms usually last at least three days, but may last longer. Flu symptoms do not typically include vomiting, diarrhea, or muscle cramps. The flu is a respiratory disease, not a gastrointestinal disease. There is no such thing as "stomach flu."
If you get the Flu, you should remember the following:
- Stay home from school or work
- Get plenty of rest
- Drink a lot of fluids
- Avoid using alcohol or tobacco while sick.
You can take medications to relieve the symptoms of the flu. However, DO NOT give aspirin to children or teenagers who are presenting flu-like symptoms, like a fever, without consulting your doctor first. If your flu symptoms are unusually severe (i.e. having trouble breathing) you should consult your doctor right away.
Individuals at an increased risk of complications from the flu should consult your doctor as soon as flu symptoms begin. This includes:
- Individuals 65 years of age or older
- Individuals with chronic medical conditions
- Pregnant women
How can you protect yourself from the flu?
Cover Your Cough...Stop the spread of germs that make you and others sick! It's important to cover your nose and mouth with a tissue whenver you cough or sneeze; then throw the tissue away. Don't have a tissue? Cough or sneeze into your sleeve, not your hand. For more facts and information, download a copy of the Cover Your Cough brochure here.
Clean your hands often...Cleaning your hands with soap and water, or with an alcohol-based, waterless hand sanitizer will limit the spread of germs.
Keep kids close...If you have an infant, don't expose him or her unnecessarily to large crowds when influenza is in your community. Avoid close contact (holding, kissing) of the baby with family members or friends who are experincing flu-like symptoms, have the flu, or other respiratory tract infections.
Limit your exposure...Do not share anything that goes into the mouth, such as drinking cups, straws or utensils. Be sure to thoroughly clean commonly touched surfaces (doorknobs, refrigerator handle, phones, water faucets. etc.) if someone in the house has a cold or flu. Additionally, be careful to avoid exposing yourself to others who are sick with a flu-like illness.
Resources for Parents, Educators, Businesses, & Employers:
As educators,parents, businesses, and employers you can help slow the spread of colds and the flu by providing others with the materials and links below.
Henry the Hand Champion Handwashing Program
Stop the Spread of Germs: Actions for Schools
Stop the Spread of Germs Official Site
It's a Snap Campaign to Prevent Absenteeism
CDC Pandemic Influenza http://www.cdc.gov/flu/pandemic
CT Flu Watch www.ct.gov/ctfluwatch/