The 2012-2013 flu season is going strong across the United States. Texas is one of 43 states reporting widespread flu outbreak, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services. In fact, the San Antonio Express News reported that in the last week of December hospitals treated twice as many flu cases as during the same week the previous year. Protect yourself against contracting the flu this year by learning the facts.
Symptoms of the flu can vary from person to person. Most patients will experience some or all of the following symptoms, which typically come on suddenly:
- Fever, often accompanied by chills
- Sore throat
- Runny nose or stuffy nose
- Body aches
- Vomiting and diarrhea, more common in children than adults
Many other viruses, including the respiratory virus called adenovirus and the rhinovirus that causes the common cold, produce symptoms that resemble the flu. Therefore, not all patients with a fever and runny nose have the flu. The only way to know for sure is to visit your doctor, who can perform a test to determine the presence of the flu virus.
Most people will recover from the flu in a few days to less than two weeks, but some may develop complications. Common complications include pneumonia—an infection of the lungs that causes inflammation, bronchitis, sinus infection and ear infection. The onset of these complications increases the severity of the flu and can even make it become life-threatening. For this reason it is important to take steps to prevent the flu.
There are several steps you can take to prevent getting the flu. The flu virus spreads by contact, so keep surfaces disinfected, avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth and wash your hands frequently. When you sneeze or cough, practice proper etiquette by covering your mouth and nose to prevent the spread of germs. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also suggests getting the flu vaccine to protect yourself this season. To learn more about the flu vaccine read the article entitled The flu vaccine – is it too late?.