Flu season is officially upon us -- and if the outcome is anything like last year, Americans need to be concerned.
Every year, anywhere from 5% to 20% of the U.S. population comes down with the flu. That may make this virus seem quite common and, therefore, easy to underplay. But those who do contract the flu are often at risk for serious health complications.
In fact, approximately 200,000 Americans are hospitalized due to flu-related problems during the average year.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the 2016-2017 flu season was significantly worse than most. The CDC website estimates that 30.9 million people contracted influenza and around 600,000 people were hospitalized due to the flu. That’s 400,000 more hospitalizations than what we normally see.
It’s likely that many of those illnesses and subsequent hospitalizations could have been prevented if patients had gotten their flu shot for the year. The flu vaccination has been in existence for over 60 years and it’s undoubtedly the most effective form of flu prevention. Not only could your yearly flu shot keep you from getting sick, but it could also protect the health of those around you.
For someone in their 20s or 30s who is in good health, the flu can still pack a wallop. The flu may take one to four days after contraction to start manifesting symptoms, but once you start feeling the effects, you’re in for quite a ride. The flu can run its course within three to seven days, but many people experience lingering symptoms for up to two weeks. These symptoms can include fever, chills, fatigue, body aches, runny or stuffy nose, sore throat, cough, headaches, and even vomiting and/or diarrhea.
Your symptoms might not even be limited to what’s listed above. Severe complications can develop as a result of the flu, which can include pneumonia, sinus infections, infections of the brain or heart, multi-organ failure, and sepsis -- some of which can be fatal.
Anyone may be at risk for such complications (even if you’re normally in excellent health), but those who are particularly vulnerable to flu infections are also prone to serious complications. These populations include seniors over the age of 65, very young children and infants, and those who have pre-existing health conditions.
If you want to stay healthy this winter and keep flu hospitalizations down in your area, it’s important to be proactive. Choosing to get your yearly flu shot can protect you from the aforementioned symptoms and will ensure safety for those who are unable to receive the shot or who are more likely to experience serious complications from this virus.
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