The flu (influenza) is a common viral disease, though it is often disregarded as a minor illness due to incorrect self-diagnosis by people who may have different, more minor infections. While the flu generally doesn’t cause severe issues, it can result in very serious complications — including death — in people that are at high risk for complications. It’s easy to vaccinate against the most likely viral strains that will occur during any flu season, and such vaccinations are highly recommended for anyone who is high-risk (risk factors include ages younger than 5 and over 65, pregnancy, immune suppression and other health issues) or those who live with high-risk people.
Symptoms. The flu is generally characterized by moderate to severe nausea and vomiting, fever, achiness in muscles and joints, weakness, sore throat and loss of appetite. Exact symptoms and severity will depend on the strain of virus with which you’re infected, your overall health and other relevant factors. Influenza is highly contagious, so if you’re showing any of these symptoms — especially between September and May, when flu is typically the most active — take extra precautions to prevent spreading the virus. Effective precautions usually involve covering your mouth when you speak, washing hands frequently and not sharing anything that comes into contact with the mouth or eyes.
Severity. Flu symptoms are most often moderate, requiring bed rest for a couple of days or so and extra care for rehydration. However, in some cases, these symptoms can become severe and may interfere with daily life. It is important to note that the flu can result in death, so it is important to take a few self-care precautions and prevent contact with people who are in the high-risk categories. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “Between 1976 and 2006, estimates of flu-associated deaths in the United States range from a low of about 3,000 to a high of about 49,000 people.” In general, the flu vaccine is very effective unless unforeseen strains of the virus appear during flu season.