Monday, November 2, 2009


The medical term for the flu is influenza. It is a contagious viral infection affecting the nose, throat, airways and lungs. There are three types of influenza viruses: A, B, C. Type A is the most common and causes most of the serious illness and epidemics. The H1N1 ("swine flu") is a new type A virus that seems to be more severe and is causing disease all over the world. The viruses are different than what causes the common "cold" or the "stomach flu". Transmission of these viruses is from person to person by sneezing or coughing. Touching surfaces that are contaminated can be another source. Frequent hand washing and covering your mouth when coughing and sneezing is important. People are infectious from one day prior to the development of symptoms and up until five days after becoming sick. New vaccines against the flu viruses are created yearly because these viruses change yearly. Flu vaccines for injection are created from killed virus and therefore cannot transmit the virus. It stimulates your body's immune system to offer protection. This flu season, in addition to the normal flu vaccine, a separate vaccine against H1N1 is becoming available. Vaccines are your best defense against the flu. Another approach is to use anti-viral medications. These anti-virals have to be given within 48 hours of the first symptoms. Anti-virals should not be used in place of the flu vaccines.
In the U.S., seasonal influenza kills more than 36,000 people & hospitalizes 200,000 yearly.
This information comes from the Journal of the American Medical Association and the Centers for Disease Control (