What are the usual symptoms of the flu?
Influenza, commonly referred to as “the flu,” is a contagious respiratory illness that can be mild to severe. It is caused by influenza viruses.
Once you contract the flu, the symptoms typically present themselves fairly quickly. You could go from feeling fine in the morning to terrible that evening. You might start out with a fever and then develop chills, a sore throat, a runny nose and body aches.
Once you have the flu, you might suffer from a fever, cough and extreme fatigue.
It's important to stay at home, if possible. You are contagious up to a day before symptoms start and until about 24 hours after your fever stops.
How does someone catch the flu?
Experts think most people catch the flu when they come into contact with respiratory droplets from an infected person. When a person who has the flu talks or coughs, for example, they can spread these droplets. If the droplets come into contact with your eyes, nose or face, you can contract the flu.
It's less common, but you might also catch the flu from touching a surface that has the flu virus on it and then touching your mouth or nose.
Why do people have to get a flu shot each year?
Flu viruses have the ability to change and mutate. The term “antigenic drift” refers to these changes happening slowly over time. These changes happen often enough with the flu virus that your immune system can't recognize it from year to year.
This means that, unlike other infectious diseases, a new shot is needed each year to keep up with the changes in the flu viruses.
What are the risk factors of the flu shot?
A common misconception is that you can contract the flu from the flu shot. You can't. Flu vaccines are made either with “inactivated” viruses, meaning they aren't infectious, or with proteins from the flu virus. The nasal spray flu vaccine does contain live viruses, but the viruses have been weakened to the point they don't cause illness.
Public health officials argue that the risk factors of the flu shot are minimal. Most commonly, people might experience redness or soreness at the site of the injection. Very rarely, a person might have a severe allergic reaction to components of the vaccine.
For example, companies that make the flu shot often grow the virus in eggs. People with egg allergies are advised to get a flu shot that wasn't made from eggs.
People who have had a moderate to severe illness with a fever should wait until they have recovered to get a vaccine. And certain people with a history of Guillain-Barre syndrome, a severe paralytic illness, should not receive the flu shot.
It's important to talk with your doctor about any concerns you have about the flu shot.
What's the recovery time from the flu?
If you think you have the flu, you might be able to contact your doctor within 48 hours and be prescribed an anti-viral medication. It's not a cure, but it can help reduce the intensity of the symptoms and shorten the course of the illness.
In general, people recover in five to seven days, depending on how severe their symptoms are. However, in some cases, symptoms can last two weeks or longer. And in some cases, people with the flu might develop pneumonia and end up in the hospital.
Since Oct. 1, 18 people in Oklahoma have been hospitalized because of the flu. So far, no one has died.
Generally, everyone 6 months and older is recommended to get a flu shot each year. The vaccine has been 60 percent to 70 percent effective in preventing the flu in past years.
Kristy Bradley, state epidemiologist at the State Health Department; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.