North Jefferson News, Gardendale, AL

Health

September 16, 2009

The influenza virus can spread rapidly, especially among children

Health Watch By Sherry Mullenix

Special to The North Jefferson News




Influenza or “flu” is an acute respiratory infection caused by a variety of influ-enza viruses.

The most familiar aspect of flu is the way it can “knock you off your feet” as it sweeps through the community. The flu differs in several ways from the common cold in symptoms and onset.

Outbreaks of flu usually begin abruptly. It is not uncommon for up to 50 percent of the population in a community to be affected, with the highest incidence in the 5-14-year-old age group. Schools are an excellent place for transmission of flu viruses. Families with school-age children have a higher rate of infection than other families.

In the United States there are an estimated 25-50 million cases of flu reported each year, leading to 150,000 hospitalizations, and 30,000-40,000 deaths yearly. Worldwide, reported cases of flu reach approximately 1 billion, resulting in 300,000-500,000 deaths.

The major concern of the H1N1 type A influenza strain (swine flu). It is a new variety of the traditional seasonal flu. If exposed, the chances are high that you will “get it.” The vaccine for H1N1 should be out mid-October, and it is a one-time injection.

Swine flu symptoms in humans are similar to those of infection with other flu strains. Swine flu symptoms develop three to five days after you’re exposed to the virus and continue for about eight days, starting one day before you get sick and continuing until you’ve recovered. The symptoms are:

• Fever

• Cough

• Sore throat

• Body aches

• Headache

• Chills

• Fatigue

• Diarrhea

• Vomiting

Because of the rapid onset of the outbreak and large number of people affected, flu is important because of the seriousness of the complications that can develop. Most people who contract the disease recover within a week, but they may be tired for a longer time.

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