October, 2010 – Influenza Basics

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Influenza Basics

 

By Heather Loguidice, ARNP

 

Flu season is fast approaching, and you do not want to be unprepared.  The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. It can cause mild to severe illness, including death.

 

The flu virus is spread mainly by inhaling droplets made when infected people cough, sneeze, or talk.  An infected individual may be able to infect others beginning one day before symptoms develop and up to seven days after becoming sick. Symptoms of the flu include fever or feeling hot/cold, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headaches, fatigue, and occasionally vomiting and diarrhea. The onset is usually abrupt.

 

Certain populations are at a greater risk for serious complications if they get the flu.  This includes people older than 65 years, children younger than 2 years, and persons of any age with chronic medical conditions such as diabetes, asthma or other chronic lung disease, heart disease, or weakened immune system.  The most common complications of the flu include bacterial pneumonia, ear infections, sinus infections, dehydration, and worsening of chronic medical conditions.

 

The single best way to prevent the flu is to get a flu vaccine each year.  The Center for Disease Control recommends that all people age 6 months or older be vaccinated against influenza on a yearly basis.  The flu vaccine is available via an injection or a nasal spray. 

 

The injection contains dead, inactivated flu virus. It is approved for use in persons older than 6 months, including healthy people and people with chronic medical conditions, and pregnant women.

 

The nasal spray is made with live, weakened flu-viruses that do not cause the flu.  It is only approved in healthy persons aged 2 – 49 years old who are not pregnant.  Approximately two weeks after vaccination, regardless of type, your body produces antibodies that will protect against influenza virus infection.

 

Yearly flu vaccination should begin in September and continue throughout the flu season which can last as late as May.  Flu season typically peaks in January.  The seasonal flu vaccine will protect against the three influenza viruses that research suggests will be most common that year.  The 2010-2011 flu vaccine will protect against 2009 H1N1, an H3N2 virus, and an influenza B virus.

 

Contraindications to the influenza vaccine include severe egg allergy, history of previous severe reaction to a prior influenza vaccine, history of Guillen-Barre Syndrome within six weeks of getting a previous influenza vaccine, age younger than six months, and people with moderate to severe illness with a fever should delay vaccination until their symptoms resolve.

 

If you have questions about whether you should get a flu vaccine or would like an appointment to receive your flu vaccine, please call us at Family Medical and Wellness Center- (561) 721-1953.

 

Heather Loguidice, ARNP, joined doctors Glover and Vizcaino at the end of 2000 and is certified in Family Practice. Her experience spans 14 years and she has worked in Fast-Track ER’s and a few large Family Practice offices. Her interests include Women’s Health and Pediatrics and she has a wide range of experience in all Family Practice related matters. Heather is a big Gator’s fan; she lives in Boynton Beach and enjoys spending her free time with her daughter.