The flu virus will affect most everyone, but it is not uncommon for people to respond differently. Elderly, children, and those suffering from autoimmune and chronic illnesses will be at a higher risk to developing secondary complications. Flu-related complications can vary from a mild case of sinusitis to bilateral pneumonia, requiring hospitalization. Influenza should be taken very seriously, especially in individuals 65 years and older. Flu-related deaths target this age group more frequently than any other. The U.S. flu season onset can be as early as October and lasts as late as May (CDC) and peaks between December and February.
Influenza viruses are transmitted through respiratory droplets from one person to another. Respiratory droplets are unlike airborne droplets, in that the droplet does not stay suspended in air and can only travel a short distance of 3 feet. Basically, this means that you will need to been within 3 feet of the susceptible person, when they cough or sneeze to come in contact with the viral cells. Airborne drops will remain suspended in air for longer periods of times.The incubation period begins at the time of exposure and ends at the onset of symptoms. The flu incubation period is typically 1 to 4 days, with an average of 2 days. The infected person may be contagious 1 day prior to the onset of symptoms and 5-7 days after onset. Infected persons, with an autoimmune disorder may be contagious for an extended period of time. Uncomplicated cases will resolve with 3 to 7 days, but malaise and cough may linger around for 14 days. Influenza symptoms include:
- Nonproductive cough
- Sore throat
- Low-grade fever
Children may also exhibit nausea, vomiting, and otitis media, along with the above symptoms.
It is recommended for everyone ages 6 months and older to get vaccinated. The flu vaccine is the best form of protection available, but it is even more important to get vaccinated as soon as the Health Department flu clinic begins, which is usually some time between July and September. It takes around 2 weeks for the antibodies to develop and begin protecting against the flu virus. However, it is never too late to get vaccinated, because as long as the flu virus is circulating, you can still get infected. Once you get vaccinated, you should also take advantage of everyday preventive actions:
- Frequent hand washing
- Avoid close contact, with those exhibiting flu symptoms
- Alter daily schedule, so you can stay home, when not feeling well
- Use a tissue to cover nose and mouth, when sneezing or coughing
- Drink plenty of fluids, get plenty of sleep, and eat a healthy diet
- Wear a face mask, when working in proximity of others
Antibiotics are ineffective in treating virus cells, but they are effective in treating infections caused by bacteria. Antibiotic overuse is a common problem in the United States. This has led to the development of a “super bug”, which is resistant to antibiotics. The best form of viral treatment is rest, with plenty of fluid consumption. There are also various forms of decongestants, antihistamines, and pain relievers available over the counter to help ease symptoms.
Antivirals must be obtained through a written prescription and are available in liquid and pill form, inhaled powder and intravenous solution. Healthy individuals normally do not need antiviral drugs, because their immune system is viable and will combat the illness, without complications. However, individuals with chronic illnesses are not so lucky and often need antivirals to help their body eradicate the flu virus. Examples of antiviral drugs include:
- Tamiflu (recommended for persons aged 2 weeks and older)
- Relenza (recommended for persons aged 7 years and older)
- Rapivab (recommended for adults aged 18 years and older)
These medications must be taken for 5 consecutive days. However, inpatients may be prescribed the drug for an extended period of time to prevent complications.
Prince George’s County, Maryland Health Department
The medical team and staff at Prince George’s County Health Department strive to prepare the residents for the next upcoming flu season. If you are interested in getting vaccinated against the influenza virus, be sure to contact the Prince George’s County Health Department, today.
Prince George’s County Health Department
1701 McCormick Drive
Upper Marlboro, Maryland 20774
Hours: Mon-Fri 8:30am-5pm
Cheverly Health Center
3003 Hospital Drive
Cheverly, Maryland 20785
Hours: Mon-Thurs 8am—8pm and Fri 8am-4: 30pm