Key facts to know about avoiding seasonal flu

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Faith Killian
  • 71st Medical Operations Squadron, Public Health
The following are key facts to know about seasonal influenza. 

What is influenza? Influenza, commonly called the flu, is an acute viral disease of the nose, throat, and lungs. Flu is characterized by fever, headache, extreme tiredness, dry cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle aches, and stomach symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. 

How does flu spread? Flu is spread mainly from person to person by respiratory droplets expelled during talking, laughing, coughing or sneezing. Flu can also be spread by touching contaminated objects and then touching one's nose or mouth. 

How long is the flu's incubation period and how long is it communicable? The incubation period, the time from exposure to the first symptoms, is usually one to three days. The period of communicability is three to five days from clinical onset in adults and up to seven days in young children. 

What are the complications of the flu? Most people recover in one to two weeks, but some people develop serious and potentially life-threatening medical complications, such as pneumonia, ear infections, sinus infections, dehydration, and worsening of chronic medical conditions such as congestive heart failure, asthma, or diabetes. 

What is the treatment for flu? Most people who get the flu are adequately treated with fluids and rest. Prescriptions are available to prevent or reduce the severity of influenza. 

Who is at high risk of flu complications? Those at high risk are: 50 years old or older; have chronic or long term health problems; are pregnant during flu season, typically November through March; and children under 5 years old. 

How is seasonal flu prevented? The single best way to prevent the flu is to get vaccinated each year. There are two types of vaccines: the flu shot and the nasal-spray flu vaccine. 

The flu shot is an inactivated vaccine, containing killed virus, that is given with a needle. It is approved for use in people 6 months of age and older, including healthy people and people with chronic medical conditions. 

The nasal-spray flu vaccine is a vaccine made with live, weakened flu viruses that do not cause the flu. It is approved for use in healthy people 2 to 49 years of age who are not pregnant. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that flu vaccination campaigns begin in mid-October and run through December or later as long as vaccine is available. 

The Immunizations Clinic at the 71st Medical Group will provide flu vaccine to active duty and key civilian personnel in the squadrons starting Oct. 15. A schedule will be coordinated with the squadrons and wing staff agencies to provide the vaccine as done for the past few years. 

The vaccine will be available for retirees and family members the first week of November. Look for dates of vaccine availability on the clinic marquee and in the Vance electronic bulletin. 

What are some everyday flu-preventive steps? Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when coughing or sneezing and throw the tissue away after use. Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 15 to 20 seconds, especially after you cough or sneeze. Stay away from people who are sick. 

If you get the flu, stay home from work or school. If you are sick, do not go near other people so that you don't make them sick. Try not to touch your eyes, nose, or mouth. Germs often spread this way. 

For more information, contact Public Health, 213-7986, or visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Web site at