Flu Season Awareness 101

Flu Season Awareness 101

Hands of a female doctor getting a flu vaccine ready to administer to a little boy in a red shirt

One of the facts about flu season is that during 2017-2018, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 40% of American’s got the flu vaccine. While the influenza vaccine is generally covered by insurance, those without will pay the relatively low cost of $20 to $40 for a standard flu shot. This is reasonable in perspective to the medical care that may be require should the flu be contracted. With all the talk in the news about the devastation flu season can wreak, here are some need to know facts about the bug and related illness.

What is the flu (influenza)?

The CDC defines the flu as a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses that infect the nose, throat, and sometimes the lungs. It is prevalent in the fall and winter seasons and is spread through airborne droplets from a cough or sneeze. The flu can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death. The best way to prevent flu is by getting a flu vaccination each year.

How is the flu contracted?

The flu virus enters through open orifices including the mucous membranes of your nose, eyes and mouth. When a person infected with the flu coughs or sneezes, the beadlike particles expelled enter the new host and therefore spread the virus. These droplets can be contracted from within 6 feet of an infected person. Touching surfaces these droplets land and then touching your face is also a method of contracting the flu. The virus can live on hard surfaces for up to 48 hours.

How is the flu diagnosed?

A rapid molecular assay test is performed where the doctor swabs your nose or throat and to detect influenza viral RNA within 30 minutes or less. This test will detect the presence of genetic material of the virus. While there are more invasive tests that can be performed, this type of test is accurate for simple flu testing purposes.

What are symptoms of the flu?

While there are varying degrees of symptoms present, all or some of the following may manifest when the flu virus is present (according to the CDC):
• Fever or feeling feverish/ chills
• Cough
• Sore throat
• Runny or stuffy nose
• Muscle or body aches
• Headaches
• Fatigue (tiredness)
• Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults.

There are four different types of flu: A, B, C & D.

Type A

What is type A flu?

This flu type is largely responsible for the massive outbreak epidemics. Type A can infect various animals, with wild birds commonly being a host. Therefore, this type of influenza is often called avian flu or bird flu.
Contagiousness: If you are diagnosed with the flu, you can be contagious up through five days after the first sign of symptoms. In more severe cases, being contagious can last much longer, especially in those with compromised immune systems such as children and older people.
Treatment: With new strains being created each flu season, a flu vaccination will not prevent one from contracting a new strain. Anti-viral prescriptions will slow down the virus’s ability to spread from cell to cell. These medications include:
• zanamivir ( Relenza)
• oseltamivir (Tamiflu)
• peramivir (Rapivab)
Recovery: While Influenza A can resemble the common cold, it is important to seek medical treatment to preserve your health and avoid triggering worse complications.

Type B

What is type B flu?

Type B virus is only found in humans, more prominent in children than adults.
Contagiousness: Type B flu is spread from human to human. It is highly contagious and can have dangerous effects on your health. As with type A, new strains are being created each flu season. Therefore, a flu vaccination will not prevent one from contracting a new virus since the genetic makeup of that virus is unknown.
Treatment: It is recommended to stay home, drink plenty of water and avoid contact with others. In severe cases a doctor may prescribe antiviral medication such as Tamiflu or Relenza.
Recovery: Illness caused by influenza B generally resolves itself within a week or two. With medication intervention, the recovery time can be deceased by two days.

Type C

What is type C flu?

According to WebMd, Influenza C is found in humans and milder than A & B. People do not become seriously ill with flu type C and it does not cause epidemics.
Contagiousness: Influenza C is also spread through respiratory droplets and can cause mild breathing issues.
Treatment: Rest, recovery and hydration are used in overcoming influenza C. The intervention of medication can be used to help the cold-like symptoms associated with this type of flu.
Recovery: Symptoms and contagiousness in more severe cases may last up to 14 days while mild cases may reach recovery in about five to seven days.

Type D

What is type D flu?

Influenza D primarily infects pigs and cattle and is not known to cause sickness in humans. This virus has only recently been identified in pigs and is distantly related to the human influenza C virus according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information.
Contagiousness: There is not much information known about this type of influenza and its likelihood to cause illness in humans. It is thought to perhaps pose a potential threat to cattle-workers.
Treatment: No evidence of treatment has been discovered through research due to this newly recognized virus.
Recovery: There is no baseline or comparison for rates of recovery due to the recent identification of Influenza D.

With flu season hitting the United States early this year, and the death toll rising in the elderly and pediatric population, it is important to understand the details of each strain. Precautions should be taken when entering large crowds such as wearing a mask, washing your hands often, covering your mouth when coughing, and being mindful of the manners of those around you. Today.com lists foods and supplements that may help fight cold & flu:

Foods:
o Colorful fruits & vegetables
o Garlic
o Chicken soup
o Whole grains
o Fish oil (omega-3)

Supplements:
o Vitamin D
o Zinc
o Probiotics
o Vitamin C

The bottom line is, it is flu season. You can protect yourself from contacting A, B or C with these helpful tips. In the event you do happen to fall victim to one of the influenza strains, now you know what to expect. At American Online Benefits Group, we offer plans to provide you access to healthcare providers should you become ill. While we wish you well in fighting off the flu, we want you to be prepared in the event you do become sick. Contact us today at 214-389-9072 for more information.

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