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Flu FAQ: Spread the Word, Not the Germs

By Anumeha Singh

Flu season is rapidly descending upon us, let’s spread the word and not the germs. You can take steps to limit your exposure, prevent spreading or treat complications. Your biggest flu questions are answered here.

What is flu?

Flu or influenza virus is a viral infection which causes infection of upper respiratory tract leading to fever, chills, body aches, sore throat, runny nose, headache, fatigue and cough.

When is the flu season?

In United States, fall and winter months are considered flu season. Flu activity starts in October and peaks between December and March. It can last until May. There is a lot of variation in the seasonality from year to year. 

How does it spread?

The virus spreads via droplets in the air (coughing, sneezing, etc.), direct contact with infected or carrier person and by touching a surface contaminated with the virus (desks, public places etc). 

Who is at special risk?

The population at special risk of developing a more severe infection includes pregnant women, children under the age of six, individuals older than 65 years of age, immunocompromised adults, individuals with history of asthma/bronchitis and diabetes.

What can we do to prevent the spread?

Proper hand hygiene is the best preventive measure we can take against the spread of this virus. Remember to wash your hand properly anytime you come in contact with a sick person or go out in a public place. Cover your face when you sneeze or cough. Avoid contact with people suffering from flu especially if you belong to the group at special risk of the disease. As with all diseases, keep your immunity and hydration up to decrease your chances of getting the infection. 

What are the complications of flu?

Complications of flu includes dehydration, electrolyte imbalance, secondary bacterial infection including pneumonia /sinusitis, etc., and deterioration of underlying chronic conditions such as asthma or heart failure.

What are the treatment options available?

Flu vaccine is highly recommended by the Center Of Disease Control (CDC). The more people who get vaccinated the more that community is protected.

The treatment option is basically an antiviral medication and supportive treatment as well as diagnosing and treating the complications occurring from the flu. Antibiotics are not used to treat flu. However, a secondary bacterial infection may require antibiotic.

What about infants less than 6 months of age?

There is no vaccination currently available for this age group. Remember that this is the most sensitive age group with high adverse outcome if infected. Vaccination of caregivers and others in contact might be the best protection for infants.

This season commit yourself to proper hand hygiene, flu vaccination, building up immunity and staying well hydrated. Stay healthy! 

About the Author:  Anumeha Singh , MD is an Assistant Professor in the Department Of Emergency Medicine at Hartford Hospital/UConn. She is also co-owner of Priority Urgent Care in Ellington,CT alongside her EP husband , Daksh Rampal, MD .