The Hippo


Jul 21, 2019








Flu vs. you
How to beat influenza before it attacks

By Angie Sykeny

 While the word “flu” is often used synonymously with a common cold or gastrointestinal illness, true influenza is caused by a very specific virus.

“If anyone really had the flu, they would remember it very clearly,” said Susan Myers, chief of immunization at the New Hampshire Division of Public Health.
Flu symptoms can include a sore throat, cough, headache, fever of 100 degrees or higher and muscle aches, but what really distinguishes it from other illnesses is its very abrupt onset. For most healthy people, the symptoms will subside within a week, but for some, the flu can cause serious complications like bacterial pneumonia, bronchitis and worsening of other health problems. According to the U.S. Department of Health, over 200,000 people are hospitalized from flu complications each year, primarily young children, seniors, pregnant women and people with chronic health conditions. However, the flu virus is different each year, making it a greater threat than people may realize.
“The flu season is really unpredictable and can be really severe,” said Nicole Losier, nurse supervisor for the Community Health Division of the Manchester Health Department. “A few years ago with the H1N1, it was the young, healthy people ending up in the hospitals, so it’s hard to predict who [it will affect] each year.”
The flu is extremely contagious and is spread easily through contact with an infected person or contact with a surface or object that has the virus on it.
Nearly all health experts agree that the most effective way to protect yourself from the flu is getting the flu vaccine every year, preferably in October, which is the start of flu season. Anyone can be vaccinated except for babies 6 months or younger and people with certain severe allergies. The vaccine is available at doctors’ offices, health clinics and some pharmacies and is either covered by insurance or available for free or a small fee.
But despite the availability of the vaccine and the urging from health professionals to get it, many people choose not to be vaccinated.
“The biggest reason for that is people may be concerned about possible side effects,” Myers said. “The reaction is usually really mild and may just be some tenderness at the injection site, so I really want to dispute any misconceptions and emphasize that the benefits clearly outweigh the risks.”
Besides the vaccine, the best ways to dodge the flu are avoiding close contact with infected or potentially infected people; washing your hands frequently with soap and water, scrubbing for at least 20 seconds, or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available; sanitizing surfaces and objects that could be contaminated; and refraining from touching your eyes, nose and mouth during the day.
If you start to experience flu-like symptoms, be sure to practice hygienic etiquette like sneezing and coughing into your elbow and not touching communal surfaces with unwashed hands. If you develop a fever and more serious symptoms, stay home from work or school and do not return until at least 24 hours after your fever has subsided. This can be a tough recommendation for people to follow for fear of falling behind with work or upsetting a boss. However, Losier asks that employers not only allow sick employees to stay home without consequence, but also encourage them to.
“It’s probably better to have one person out of work for a few days than your whole staff out for a week,” she said.
Even if you’re in good health and not concerned about the flu personally, getting vaccinated can prevent it from spreading throughout the community and affecting those who are at risk for serious complications.
“Think of very young children under 6 months; there’s no vaccine approved for them,” Myers said. “If the majority of people step up and get the shot, there will be less transmitters to infect those at risk, so you’re protecting other individuals as well as yourself.”

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