The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by the influenza virus that infects the nose, throat, and lungs. It can cause mild to severe illness, and can even lead to death. How does the flu spread so rapidly? Many experts believe that the influenza virus is spread by droplets created by an infected person when they sneeze, cough, or talk.
Signs and symptoms for the flu may vary; it is important to note that not everyone who contracts influenza will have a fever. Some of the common symptoms of the flu are:
- Sore Throat
- Runny or Stuffy Nose
- Muscle and Body Aches
- Vomiting or Diarrhea
The influenza virus is highly contagious and can be passed on to others even before the signs and symptoms appear. Many healthy adults are contagious one day before symptoms develop, and up to five to seven days after they become sick. People with weakened immune systems may be able to infect others for longer periods of time.
Tips for Preventing the Flu
One of the single, most effective ways to prevent the flu is to get a flu vaccine. Those over the age of 65, have the availability to receive a high-dose trivalent shot. This vaccine contains a higher dose of antigen that is meant to provide a better immune response in the elderly.
Maintaining good health habits is also a critical wellness aspect to reduce the risk of contracting the flu. Washing your hands with soap and water is crucial, and if soap is not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub. Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth, especially in heavily populated environments. If you are sick, or feel sick, then you should avoid close contact with others to protect them from getting sick.
It is recognized that the people over the age of 65 are more susceptible to serious complications from the flu. It is estimated that roughly 90 percent of flu related deaths and 50-60 percent of hospitalizations from the flu occur in those over the age of 65. Knowing these statistics makes caring for our elderly population in facilities, hospitals, and clinics much more pressing. Knowing when the symptoms of the flu are present, or taking the necessary precautions if you have been exposed to the flu, can help ensure a safe and healthy season for our elderly.
CDC says “Take 3” Actions to fight the flu. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/preventing.htm on December 12, 2014
What you should know and do this flu season if you are 65 years and older. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/disease/65over.htm on December 12, 2014