|What is the Flu|
|Who gets the Flu|
|How do I know if I have the flu|
|How can I treat the flu?|
|Should I get vaccinated|
|For More Information on the Flu|
It is likely that most of us have experienced the flu at some point in our lives. Especially if you live at college, where you are in close contact with many people and there is a greater risk of an epidemic. Although symptoms of the flu can be highly uncomfortable, it usually lasts for only 1 to 2 weeks. And if you know you caught it within the past two days, prescription medicine is available to alleviate the symptoms. However, the best way to prevent the flu is by getting an annual vaccination, which may be offered by your school's health center at low or no-cost. [ To Top ]
The flu (influenza) is a contagious virus that infects the nose, throat, and lungs. The virus is airborne and is easily spread if an infected person around you coughs or sneezes. It can enter your body through your nose and mouth. You can also catch the flu if you touch a contaminated object. Doorknobs and public telephones are prime objects to spread the virus since people who are infected naturally touch them. The flu is a winter illness and the season usually lasts from November to March. Since the virus is so easily transmitted, it can cause epidemics, where at least 40% of the members in the community become infected (1).
There are three main types of the influenza virus-type A, B, and C. Type A can infect both humans and animals, whereas types B and C can only infect humans. The symptoms caused by type C are very mild and do not usually cause epidemics (2). Vaccines normally prevent these infections, although it is possible that new strains can appear that are not covered by the vaccine.  [ To Top ]
Your doctor can identify if you have the flu by matching your symptoms. This is particularly easy if there is an epidemic in your area. Lab tests can be performed, but are normally just used by health care officials to determine the strain of the virus.
Since both the flu and the common cold occur pretty frequently during the winter months on college campuses, many people may not know how to tell the difference between them. The flu is often characterized by a high temperature for a few days (over 100o F), general aches and pains, weakness, and headaches. The common cold usually brings more respiratory problems, such as a stuffy nose, sneezing, and a sore throat. For a comparison of the symptoms, see the table below: http://www.niaid.nih.gov/publications/cold/sick.htm.  [ To Top ]
Even if you have a lot to do, it is important to remember that your body needs sufficient time to rest and heal itself. Stress and lack of sleep weakens your immune system and can cause you to have a longer recovery time from illnesses.
There are also a few prescription drugs that are antiviral medications. These medications should be taken within two days after the onset of flu symptoms in order to help decrease the severity and length of the symptoms. Tamiflu(r) is used to treat both type A and B of the virus, whereas Flumadine(r) is used only to treat type A. Symmetrel can also be used to treat both types of the virus, but is more often associated with side effects, such as light-headedness or insomnia.  [ To Top ]
The flu vaccine is very safe. You can't catch the flu from a flu shot. However you may not want to be vaccinated if you are allergic to egg products, since the virus is grown in eggs and may contain some protein from them. Additionally, if you have an acute illness with a fever, you should wait until you recover before receiving the vaccine (4).
There are very few side effects associated with the flu vaccine. The most common is soreness around the area of injection for 1-2 days. Less frequent side effects include fever, malaise, and body aches, which normally occur in people, especially children, who have never been vaccinated.  [ To Top ]