Influenza / Flu – Patient Education Overview

Influenza, or its more common name, “the flu”, is a viral infection that occurs mostly in the winter and late autumn by either the A or B virus.

Between 3-5 million people globally are affected by the flu each year, and between 3,000-50,000 deaths occur annually from seasonal flu in the U.S. alone. Read more in this patient education guide.

Common symptoms resulting from the flu typically occur 1-4 days after exposure and include:

  • Headache
  • Lethargy, fatigue
  • Fever
  • Sore/dry throat with cough
  • Decreased appetite
  • Body aches

The flu can resolve spontaneously in 1-2 weeks, but in immuno-compromised individuals can progress to:

  • Bronchitis
  • Pneumonia
  • Ear infection
  • Sinus infection

Receiving the flu shot, which is usually given between September and February each year, may prevent contracting influenza.

While everyone over the age of 6 months is eligible to receive the vaccine, those who are at high risk for susceptibility and should strongly consider receiving the shot include:

  • People with decreased or compromised immunity
  • Pregnant women
  • Children 6 months to 4 years
  • Adults over the age of 50
  • Healthcare workers
  • Adults with the following conditions:
    • Lung problems, like asthma, bronchitis, and emphysema
    • Cardiac disease
    • Epilepsy
    • Diabetes
    • Renal disorders

Written by Barbara Hales, MD

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