What is it? The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death. Some people, such as older people, young children, and people with certain health conditions, are at high risk for serious flu complications
What are the symptoms of Flu? Symptoms of flu include:
How Does Flu Spread? Flu viruses spread in respiratory droplets caused by coughing and sneezing. They usually spread from person to person, though sometimes people become infected by touching something with flu viruses on it and then touching their mouth or nose. Most healthy adults may be able to infect others beginning 1 day before symptoms develop and up to 5 days after becoming sick. That means that you can pass on the flu to someone else before you know you are sick, as well as while you are sick.
How Can I Prevent Getting the Flu?
1. Practice Good Health Habits, such as:
- Avoid close contact.
Avoid close contact with people who are sick. When you are sick, keep your distance from others to protect them from getting sick too.
- Stay home when you are sick.
If possible, stay home from work, school, and errands when you are sick. You will help prevent others from catching your illness.
- Cover your mouth and nose.
Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. If you do not have a tissue, cough into your sleeve NEVER into your hands.
- Clean your hands.
Wash your hands with soap and warm water for at least 30 seconds. Washing often will help protect you from germs. Always wash your hands before eating.
2. Get Vaccinated
The single best way to prevent the flu is to get a flu vaccination each fall. There are two types of vaccines:
- The "flu shot" – an inactivated vaccine (containing killed virus) that is given with a needle. The flu shot is approved for use in people older than 6 months, including healthy people and people with chronic medical conditions. Call the Student Health Center for information regarding flu shot availability.
- The nasal-spray flu vaccine – a vaccine made with live, weakened flu viruses that do not cause the flu (sometimes called LAIV for “Live Attenuated Influenza Vaccine”). LAIV is approved for use in healthy people 5 years to 49 years of age who are not pregnant and is available in the USD Student Health Center for $25
- About two weeks after vaccination, antibodies develop that protect against influenza virus infection. Flu vaccines will not protect against influenza-like illnesses caused by other viruses.
- When to vaccinate: October or November is the best time to get vaccinated, but getting vaccinated in December or even later can still be beneficial. Flu season can begin as early as October and last as late as May.
ASSOCIATED STUDENTS/STUDENT HEALTH CENTER PARTNERSHIP
Undergrad Associated Students partnered with the Student Health Center to provide low cost flu shots at flu outreach clinics. This year, with funding from Associated Students, flu shots were available to all undergraduates at the outreach clinics for $10. With the support and assistance from the Student Health Center, flu shots were also available to all graduate, staff and faculty for $10 at these outreach flu clinics.
- Flu shots are available at the Student Health Center to faculty, staff and students during immunization hours (10am to 3 pm daily) for $15.
How Can I Treat the Flu?
Four antiviral drugs (amantadine, rimantadine, zanamavir and oseltamivir) have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for treatment of influenza. However, you will need to begin taking an antiviral drug within 2 days after becoming sick. When used in this manner, these drugs can reduce influenza symptoms and may shorten the time you are sick by 1 or 2 days. The drugs also may make you less contagious, but none of these drugs cures influenza outright. All of these drugs must be prescribed by a doctor and taken for 3-5 consecutive days (5 days for oseltamivir and zanamivir). The 4 antiviral drugs are effective only against influenza viruses. They will not help symptoms associated with the common cold or many other influenza-like illnesses caused by viruses that circulate in the winter.
All of the antiviral drugs are different in terms of who can take them, how they are given, any dosing changes based on age or medical conditions, and side effects. Your doctor can help decide whether you should take an antiviral drug and which one you should use.
When considering the use of antivirals it is important to remember that most healthy people recover from influenza without complications.
Who Should Get Antiviral Drugs?
People who are at high risk of serious complications from influenza may benefit most from antiviral medications. This includes: people 65 years of age and older, children 12-23 months of age, people with chronic medical conditions (for example, heart or lung disease, diabetes), and pregnant women. (Note that none of the antivirals are approved for use in children less than 1 year of age.)
For Treatment: If you become sick with influenza-like symptoms this season, your doctor first may give you a test to find out whether you have influenza. (Symptoms include fever (usually high), headache, tiredness, a sore throat and dry cough, nasal congestion, and body aches.) Your doctor also will consider a number of factors before making a treatment decision, such as your risk for complications from influenza.
For Prevention: In the event of an influenza outbreak in a home, institution, or community, your doctor may choose to prescribe antivirals to you as a preventive measure, especially if you are at high risk for complications from influenza. Also, if you are in close contact with someone who is considered at high risk for complications, you may be given antiviral drugs to reduce the chances of passing influenza to the high-risk person.