Here's what you need to know about influenza

With cold and flu season fast approaching, we want to make sure our patients are well-informed about influenza, which infects millions of Americans each year, and leads to hundreds of thousands of hospitalizations and tens of thousands of deaths.

Here’s what you need to know about this potentially serious infection.

1) Influenza is a viral infection

Influenza is caused by a virus, which means that antibiotics don’t have any effect against it. Because of this, it’s important to take preventative measures before flu seasons hits and throughout the season, such as flu shots and proper handwashing.

2) There are 144 potential strains of influenza

Each strain of influenza has two proteins on the surface: H (hemagglutinin) and N (neuraminidase). There are 18 different forms of H, and 11 different forms of N, which means there are 144 potential configurations of the flu virus.

3) You need to get a new flu shot every year

Because there are 144 flu strains, and only four can be included in each year’s flu shot, it’s recommended that you get a new flu shot every year to protect you against the strains of the flu that are expected to affect the U.S. that year. The flu vaccine typically only protects against the flu strains for 6 months.

4) Influenza can cause serious complications

Influenza is more than a "bad cold." Getting the flu can also put you at risk for pneumonia, meningitis, ear infections, sinusitis, respiratory failure, dehydration, sepsis and other life-threatening complications.

5) Certain groups are at a higher risk for flu complications

Infants, elderly people, pregnant women and patients with chronic health conditions are at an increased risk for flu-related complications. While children under six months of age aren’t eligible for the flu shot, it’s important that all other high-risk populations receive the flu shot to prevent life-threatening complications.

It’s also important to note than when a pregnant woman receives a flu shot, antibodies are passed on to the fetus through the placenta, offering some protection against the flu during the baby’s first six months of life.

6) See a healthcare provider at the first sign of influenza for treatment

An antiviral medication is available for patients who test positive for influenza. This medication decreases the length of the illness and decreases the risk of flu-related complications. It works best if it’s started within the first 48 hours of the illness, so it’s important to seek prompt medical care if you think you might have the flu.

Flu symptoms can also be treated with fever reducers, antiemetics, IV fluids and other supportive measures.

7) Prevention is key to influenza

Influenza can sometimes be prevented by getting the flu shot. Also, washing your hands, covering your mouth when you cough, disinfecting common areas and avoiding contact with flu patients can help reduce the transmission of the virus.

We're here to help

At Urgent Care, we’re here seven days a week to keep you and your loved ones healthy. We offer flu shots, rapid flu tests, and same-day treatment for illnesses and injuries.