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Flu Season is upon us. I have treated quite a few cases this year. The flu even made a visit to my home over Thanksgiving. For that, I was not thankful. So, what do you need to know about the flu to keep you and your family safe.

1) The Flu is just a bad cold.

Fiction: The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses that infect the nose, throat, and lungs. It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death.

2) The Flu is spread by shaking hands.

Fact: This is just one way the flu can be spread! Flu viruses spread mainly by droplets made when people with flu cough, sneeze or talk. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby. Less often, a person might also get flu by touching a surface or object that has flu virus on it and then touching their own mouth, eyes or possibly their nose.

3) People don’t die from the flu.

Fiction: Flu seasons are unpredictable and can be severe. Over a period of 30 years, between 1976 and 2006, estimates of flu-associated deaths in the United States range from a low of about 3,000 to a high of about 49,000 people.

4) Children under the age of 2 are more likely to suffer flu complications

Fact: Children younger than 5, but especially children younger than 2 years old, Adults 65 years of age and older, Pregnant women, American Indians and Alaskan Natives

People who have medical conditions including: Asthma, Neurological and neurodevelopmental conditions [including disorders of the brain, spinal cord, peripheral nerve, and muscle such as cerebral palsy, epilepsy (seizure disorders), stroke, intellectual disability (mental retardation), moderate to severe developmental delay, muscular dystrophy, or spinal cord injury], Chronic lung disease (such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease [COPD] and cystic fibrosis), Heart disease (such as congenital heart disease, congestive heart failure and coronary artery disease), sickle cell disease, diabetes mellitus, kidney disorders, Liver disorders, HIV or cancer, those who are morbidly obese (BMI >/40)

5) The flu shot causes the flu.

Fiction: The viruses in the flu shot are dead. Its most common side effect is a sore arm. Mist nasal spray contains weakened viruses, so they don’t cause severe symptoms, either. Side effects in kids can include a runny nose, wheezing and headache.

6) There are treatments for the flu.

Fact: Two antiviral drugs are highly effective against the flu: Tamiflu, in pill form, and Relenza, which is inhaled. These drugs are most effective if taken within 48 hours of your first flu symptoms. But the drugs are beneficial even if taken 48 hours after symptom onset.

Neither Tamiflu nor Relenza cures the flu. But they can reduce the amount of time you’re sick by one or two days and make you less contagious to others.

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