Information from Ginny Webb at the Hannibal Clinic

Did you know that 5-20% of our population will get the flu every year?  According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than 23,000 people will die from flu viruses this year alone.

What causes the flu?  Contagious viruses that spread when infected people cough or sneeze into the air are the main culprit, but people can also become infected by touching something with a flu virus on it and then touching their mouth or nose.  According to Dr. Jeffry Evans, family practice physician at the Hannibal Clinic, “It’s possible to spread the flu before you even know you have it.  You could infect someone else up to one day before you start showing symptoms and up to 5 days after you’ve actually become sick.”

But there are steps you can take to protect your family.  Be sure to get a vaccination every year.  The vaccine comes in a flu shot or a nasal-spray flu vaccine.  “Antibodies develop and protect the person from the virus two weeks after the vaccine is given,” explains Dr. Evans.  These vaccinations are the most effective method for flu prevention, although they are not guaranteed to protect you against the flu.

Dr. Evans says that common symptoms of the flu include fever, headache, extreme tiredness, dry cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose and muscle aches.

Hannibal Clinic Internist Dr. Priscilla Long adds that the flu can lead to worse complications such as bacterial pneumonia, dehydration, and exacerbation of chronic medical conditions such as congestive heart failure, asthma, or diabetes.  In children, the flu may lead to sinus problems and ear infections.

To stay in the best health, especially during flu season, Dr. Long recommends that you:

  • Wash your hands often.
  • Avoid touching your nose, eyes, and mouth.
  • Eat a healthy diet.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Stop smoking.  Smoking irritates the lining of your nose and may allow flu viruses easier access to you.
  • And get vaccinated!

If you think that you are suffering from the flu, see your doctor early. There are laboratory tests that can confirm the diagnosis and there is treatment available if you have been ill for less than 48 hours.