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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Flu Virus, Facts You Should Know

The Flu Virus, Facts You Should Know

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As the flu season begins to ramp up, there are 3 flu strains going around, H1N1 (swine flu), an H3N2 virus, and an influenza B virus, all of which are included in the 2010-2011 flu vaccine.
When outdoor temperatures plummet, people move indoors and interact more under indoor conditions. When people are inside together, it increases the likelihood of spreading the virus.



What is the flu

The flu is not a “bad cold” that keeps you sick for a few days. The flu is a virus, and it knocks you off your feet for a week, barely able to move with severe muscle aches and joint pain, headache, fever (usually high), chills, dry cough, and extreme tiredness and no desire or energy to eat or drink. When the flu strikes, there will be no doubt that you have it. It is amazingly debilitating.
The flu is a respiratory illness caused by the influenza virus, not a gastrointestinal one.  When the virus gets into the body, it moves into the respiratory tract where it binds to cells, takes over their function, replicates itself, kills off the original cell which then goes on to infect other cells. This process happens countless times over without you ever realizing, until it eventually enters the bloodstream and symptoms begin to occur. Then of course, it’s too late. Eventually, a healthy immune system will fight back, but it will take a while, a solid week of suffering and additional weeks of weakness.
The symptoms of a cold are similar, however the big difference to know is the severity. Additionally, the common cold rarely spikes a fever, while the flu will spike a high fever. Once the flu is contracted, there will be no doubt in the mind from that point forward.

What is the flu shot

The flu shot is an inactivated vaccine (containing killed virus) that is given with a needle, usually in the arm. After the vaccination, the immune system will develop a resistance to the strains within the vaccine after about two weeks.
The flu vaccine changes each year and is specifically tailored for the flu strains determined to be in circulation that year.
The flu shot provides about a 75 percent effectiveness rate in preventing hospitalizations.
It’s not too late to get a flu shot, if you are inclined. Although there are those who would rather not get the shot for various reasons, if you have ever really caught the flu, you will never want to have it again.
To depend entirely on ones own immune system to combat the flu may not be the best way to cope with the flu… after all, our bodies used to have a hard time coping with smallpox, polio, tuberculosis, tetanus, and others, until vaccines were developed and administered.

How to prepare for the flu

Once you have already caught the flu, it will be too late to prepare or go to the store for food or supply. You will not be capable of doing any of that, so plan ahead.
The number one priority while suffering from flu symptoms is to remain as hydrated as possible. When dehydrated, drinks like Pedialyte or Gatorade are even better than water, because they replace electrolytes that are lost (I’m sure there are other “good” liquids available too with vitamins and electrolytes).
Have a thermometer to check fever.
Try to keep the fever under control. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) and ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) help reduce fever in children and adults. Aspirin is very effective for treating fever in adults. DO NOT give aspirin to a child unless your child’s doctor tells you to.
Although while suffering from the flu, the appetite is suppressed, having simple ready-meals will save pain and aggravation. Most all of us have at least a few cans of soup lying around, so goes without saying… or perhaps your spouse will fix up something healthy and warm  :=)

How to avoid the flu

Get a flu shot
Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Germs spread this way.
Wash your hands often with soap and water.
Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
If someone sneezes nearby, hold your breath and walk further away.
Technically, you could wear a properly rated Flu Mask.
The most effective avoidance may be to try to notice and stop yourself when you’re about to rub your eyes, nose, or mouth (an important habit to get in to!)

How to catch the flu

Indirect transmission is common.
You can catch the flu from rubbing your eyes, nose, or mouth after handling an object an infected person christened with a sneeze a few moments ago. It is important to know that flu viruses primarily spread when an uninfected person has direct contact (a handshake, inhaling sneezed particles, touching an infected surface) with an infected person.
Flu virus will survive outside the body from a few minutes to as long as 48 hours. Flu generally remains active longer on stainless steel, plastic and similar hard surfaces than on fabric and other soft surfaces.



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