By Alyssa Martin, senior BSN Nursing Student at the University of Massachusetts Lowell:
The time of year is approaching where sniffles and the common cold begin to rear their ugly heads.
Since September marks the beginning of when yearly Flu Vaccinations should begin, I wanted to shed light on some pertinent information and reinforce the importance of receiving a vaccination.
Influenza, better known as the flu, is a contagious respiratory illness caused by the influenza virus. Though anyone can catch the flu, young children and the elderly are among those who pose a higher risk of acquiring it. Signs that you may have the flu can include a cough, sore throat, muscle aches and pains, headaches, and a fever.
Because of its highly contagious character, those infected can spread the disease before they even know that they have it themselves, and up to a week after symptoms have appeared.
Various complications can stem from having the flu; among those include bacterial pneumonia, ear infections, and worsening of preexisting conditions such as asthma, heart failure, or diabetes. Though the flu is responsible for causing mild illnesses, it can also lead to death.
Between 1976 and 2006, an estimated number of flu-related deaths reached as high as 49,000 people. This is why the CDC recommends a yearly vaccination as an important step in preventative measures against the flu.
The seasonal flu vaccine prevents against three viruses that research has indicated will be the most common this year. These viruses include the familiar H1N1 virus, as well as the H3N2 and Influenza B viruses.
Once a flu shot is given, antibodies develop in the body around two weeks later and it is these antibodies that offer protection against the influenza viruses. As with most health-associated complications, serious effects from the influenza virus can and should be prevented.
Be sure to make an appointment with your doctor or seek out a flu clinic and make an important step towards your health this upcoming flu season.