Viral infections have always been around and have killed millions till date. They're caused by microbes (virus) and spread through sneezing, coughing, or by coming in contact with contaminated surfaces, humans, or animals. The Flu is a common viral infection caused by the influenza virus.
If you have cold and mild fever at least once, if not few times a year and you lose sick days at work, chances are that you catch the ‘flu’ once or few times a year! Influenza or commonly referred to as ‘flu’ is a seasonal illness that impacts our health and productivity at work. While a few days of sickness could be deemed as inconvenient, however, sometimes flu can be dangerous enough to lead to hospitalization or death in some cases. As per World Health Organization (WHO), Flu vaccine is the most effective way of protecting yourself from the influenza virus and spreading it to others at work or home.
What is Flu?
Flu or influenza is a viral infection of the nose, throat and lungs that is contagious.
Symptoms of Flu:
- Fever or feeling feverish
- Sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Muscle or body ache
- Vomiting or diarrhea, more common in children than adults
How is Flu different from Common Cold?
Symptoms of Flu can often be confused with that of common cold. However, we need to sit and take notice of flu as it can come on suddenly, and varies in severity of illness from person to person and can actually lead to death. Complications arising from Flu include:
- Pneumonia: a common complication of flu that particularly effects people with lung and heart problems, children, pregnant women and elderly.
- Ear infections
- Aggravation of an existing condition like asthma, chronic congestive heart failure
High Risk Group for Flu
Seasonal Flu can impact all age groups. However, the highest risk of complication are people with existing medical condition like chronic, heart, lung, kidney, blood diseases, diabetics or weakened immune systems, children, adults 65 years or older and pregnant women.
Prevention with Flu Vaccination
Influenza viruses attack up to 10% of the adult population annually. Of the people infected worldwide, there are 3 to 5 million cases of severe illness and 2.5 to 5 lac death every year. The most effective way to prevent flu infection is vaccination. Flu vaccinations have to be taken depending on the flu season in your geography as recommended by your doctor. In a temperate climate, flu epidemic occurs in winters whereas in tropical regions, influenza outbreaks may be through out the year.
Benefits of Vaccination
Easily available and safe vaccinations have manifold benefits that include-
- Prevent, reduce incidence and severity of flu
- Higher productivity and reduce missed work or school
- Protect colleagues at work and family’s health by not spreading the infection
- Avoid flu related hospitalizations
- Lower medical bills
How does the vaccine work?
The vaccine helps create antibodies in the body that fights against infection two weeks post vaccination. The vaccination can not only help you prevent the flu virus but also protect people around you who are at high risk and vulnerable.
Effectiveness of Vaccine
Ability of the vaccine to prevent flu infection depends on the prior health status of the person getting vaccinated and the match between the flu vaccine and the circulating virus that season. The healthier the person getting vaccinated and higher match between vaccine and circulating virus will ensure higher protection and effectiveness. Among high risk group, the vaccine may make their illness mild, should they get infected.
The flu vaccine is safe for most people except in extremely rare cases. If a vaccinated person has breathing trouble, feel weak, dizzy or fast heartbeat, they should contact the doctor immediately. Additionally, if a person has had an allergic reaction to the flu shot in the past, they should consult the doctor before getting vaccinated.
Most people with mild form of flu do not need medication and should stay at home to avoid spreading the virus. However, if you are very sick or at ‘high risk’ antiviral drugs many be prescribed to you by your doctor. Timely medical intervention by doctor for people at high risk or severe illness is important to avoid complications from influenza infection.
Prevent Transmission of Flu from Infected Individual
Seasonal influenza virus is highly contagious and can spread easily from person to person. If a person is already infected with flu virus, it is critical to contain the virus from spreading especially in closed environment like an office space with many people working in close proximity. To prevent flu transmission, infected people should-
- Stay away from people as flu can spread to people up to 6 feet away
- Cover their mouth and nose when coughing.
- Wash their hands regularly with soap and water, preferably. If soap and water is not available, alcohol based hand rub many also be used.
- Utensils, dishes, linens of an infected person should not be shared with others.
- Surfaces touched frequently by an infected person at work, home, school should be disinfected.
Flu is a seasonal viral illness that can impact not only the weak but also healthy, young adults. The viral infection has the potential to cause severe sickness in you and those around you at work and home. Flu vaccinations are an easy and effective tool to avoid seasonal illness, increased productivity, probable hospitalizations and protect colleagues, friends and family. Would you chose to losing productive days at work and fun time with family and friends over feeling sick every flu season or worse, face hospitalization? Get flu vaccination and stay healthy.