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Fight Influenza With Precaution
By Chantel Lott
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- The flu attacks many victims each year, but taking some precautions can reduce the severity of the virus.
Influenza, or flu, is an acute respiratory infection, and its symptoms usually include fever, aches, chills, weakness, loss of appetite, and aching of the head, back, arms and legs. In addition, a sore throat and dry cough, nausea and burning eyes may accompany the virus.
"Each year, scientists work to develop a new vaccine that reflects the different types of influenza from the previous year. Each year the names change and the types of flu differ. A person can be infected with more than one type of influenza," said Linda Patterson, a registered nurse and health education specialist with Mississippi State University's Extension Service.
Patterson said no vaccine is 100 percent effective, but a flu shot offers the best protection. It is possible for the vaccine to cause side effects such as soreness at the injection site, and in rare cases, fever and fatigue.
"These effects are the result of the body actually building immunity," Patterson said.
The flu is transmitted by airborne droplets of respiratory fluids produced by sneezes and coughing. These droplets infect another person by entering into the eyes, nose or mouth.
Flu season runs from December until March. A flu shot is most effective before the season begins. See a physician for immunization before the end of October.
Sometimes flu symptoms appear after immunization and the flu shot is blamed. People can be exposed to infection at any time, including shortly before and after the shot. In these cases, the body has not yet had enough time to increase its immunity.
Call a physician within the first 24 hours of the appearance of flu symptoms, and a prescription medicine can greatly decrease the severity of the virus.
Anyone can be infected with the flu, and everyone can benefit from the flu vaccine. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention places certain people at higher risk. These include people over the age of 65, or those with heart or lung disease, diabetes, thyroid problems, asthma, anemia, weakened immune systems and respiratory disorders. Also people in close contact with high risk individuals should be vaccinated for their protection and their contacts.
"Complications of the flu such as pneumonia and serious lung infections are great threats to high risk people. These flu complications are greater threats for them than the virus itself," Patterson said.
This year the CDC expects delays with the delivery of vaccines. People with chronic diseases and those at high risk should be vaccinated as soon as it becomes available.
Those people with allergic reactions to egg and egg products should consult a physician before being vaccinated, because egg products are used in vaccine production .