Every year, from 5 to 20 percent of the people in the United States will become infected with influenza virus. An average of 200,000 of these people will require hospitalization and up to 50,000 will die. Older folks over the age of 65 are especially susceptible to influenza infection, since the immune system becomes weaker with age. In addition, older folks are also more susceptible to long-term disability following influenza infection, especially if they are hospitalized.
We all know the symptoms of influenza infection include fever, cough, sore throat, muscle aches, headaches and fatigue. But just what causes all the havoc? What is going on in your body as you fight the flu?
Contribute to your community's health and help track the flu.
The good news: There’s a lot you can do to protect yourself from the flu. This year’s flu vaccine is widely available and free with most insurance plans. And because both of the dominant flu strains currently circulating were included in this year’s vaccine formulation, there’s hope the shot will help prevent severe illness in people who get it.
There’s also medicine to treat the flu, so if you’re sick and at risk for flu complications, seek medical care early.
Doctors say they expect more influenza cases than in the past two years, and possibly as many cases or more as there were in prepandemic flu seasons.
And everything else you’ve been wondering about this annual vaccine.
Here’s what we know about some of the most popular remedies that show at least a little promise.
Squirt bottles filled with saline solution, elderberry tablets and cans of chicken soup: These are just a few of the weapons doctors deploy when they personally get struck down by a winter virus.
The flu virtually disappeared for two years as the pandemic raged. But influenza appears poised to stage a comeback this year in the U.S., threatening to cause a long-feared "twindemic."
While the flu and the coronavirus are both notoriously unpredictable, there's a good chance COVID cases will surge again this winter, and troubling signs that the flu could return too.
The southern hemisphere – where flu season starts – has been hit hard. Australia, for example, has had the worst flu season in five years, and it has been hammered by COVID, too. This year has been the first real opportunity for both viruses to circulate freely as all COVID restrictions have now been lifted.
“It’s rare that patients come in with just a sore throat,” Dr. Lockwood said. “The hallmark of the flu for me is when symptoms are all over.” Symptoms of the flu also tend to come on abruptly, she said. “Sometimes parents will tell me that their child was fine when they dropped them off at school, and when they picked them up the child had a fever and all of these other symptoms.”
Scientists have tested in animals a vaccine that may protect against 20 strains of influenza, helping to prevent another pandemic.
If you ask someone who researches flu and flu vaccines, they will likely quietly — or in some cases, not so quietly — advise you to wait at least until the end of October to get a flu shot, though they’ll attach the caveat that if you start to hear about flu activity picking up where you live, you should fast-forward your plans.
As you try to avoid catching the bug, here are a few numbers to keep in mind...
Most symptoms are actually caused by your immune system's response to the virus.
Do masks work? It depends. Health professionals offer some tips on how to stay healthy while on the move.
The fact is, influenza is an illness that is far more deadly but also far more familiar to us. The current coronavirus outbreak, which originated in China, serves as a surrogate for a good deal of xenophobia and fear of the country itself.
It’s that time of year again – the trip to the chemist, the little room, the little jab. Eva Wiseman reveals why avoiding actual flu is not the only reason she loves having the shot.
In the U.S., the main lines of defense are pharmaceutical—vaccines and antiviral drugs to limit the spread of flu and prevent people from dying from it. Yet now some flu experts are challenging the medical orthodoxy and arguing that for those most in need of protection, flu shots and antiviral drugs may provide little to none.
Flu vaccinations have become an annual event in most developed countries, yet the flu continues to affect tens of millions of people each year and causes 250,000 to 500,000 deaths worldwide. So, what's wrong? Is the flu virus smarter than us?
Your best defense starts with diligent hand-washing and a flu shot. But studies suggest that there are additional steps you can take to stay free of respiratory illnesses, or at least make a speedier recovery. Here are some of those steps.
Imagine the action of a vaccine not just in terms of how it affects a single body, but also in terms of how it affects the collective body of a community — Eula Biss, author of On Immunity
The new technique, which blocks the enzyme needed by the virus to replicate itself, has been shown to work against the many drug-resistant strains that have sprung up in recent years, such as the common A and B strains. "If it's effective, it will be a game changer.”
A strong virus, a less-than-effective vaccine, and an IV bag shortage that goes back to Hurricane Maria.
You know the flu from first-hand experience, but what do you really know about it? Brush up on the facts—and learn about some recent developments.
Whenever there’s an outbreak of flu – usually over the winter months – various myths begin to circulate, some as contagious as the flu itself. These range from confusion about what flu actually is, to speculation about how it’s transmitted.
Flu is a contagious respiratory tract illness caused by the influenza virus. There are three different strains that can cause seasonal flu in humans. They are called influenza A(H1N1), influenza A(H3N2) and influenza B. Here are six common myths which regularly do the rounds.
It’s time once again to answer that age old question: to flu shot or not. Should we roll up our sleeves (or in some cases, unbuckle our belts to lower our pants) and suffer a moment or two of needle pain in order to avoid the possibility of coming down with a much more serious and sometimes deadly case of influenza?
It's flu season again. And now, along with the barrage of helpful flu shot reminders, comes the annual outbreak of myths about the flu.
Flu season is upon us, which means emergency departments all over the globe are dealing with an overwhelming number of patients with flu and flulike symptoms. In a bilateral attempt at self-interest and social good, we, your friendly emergency department doctors, would like to give you some advice on how to manage this time of year.
One of the biggest mysteries about the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic was why it killed so many young people. Nearly half of the dead—which numbered in tens of millions—were adults aged 20 to 40. World War I ended in the middle of the pandemic, and ultimately, more U.S. soldiers died from the flu than in combat.
Why was this flu so deadly to this particular group? The answer, according to work by the University of Arizona evolutionary biologist Michael Worobey, had to do with the flu viruses those victims encountered as children, decades before. As dominant flu strains change over time, people born after 1889 had never encountered a strain similar to the Spanish flu, leaving them vulnerable in the pandemic.
All in all, Sue argues that the term “man flu” may not be a fair diagnosis, if used derogatorily. “Men may not be exaggerating symptoms,” he writes, “but have weaker immune responses to viral respiratory viruses, leading to greater morbidity and mortality than seen in women.”
A century ago, the Spanish flu killed more than 50 million people. The world is at risk of another pandemic of similar scale.
This year’s flu outbreak is unusually bad, but it could be much worse. It’s time to accelerate a range of public-health measures, including work on a universal vaccine.
New FDA regulations raise the standard for rapid flu tests, with the aim of creating more accurate results and limiting misdiagnoses.
One infectious illness comes on slow, the other hits you like a truck.
Plus tips for taking care of yourself.
Managers who insist that employees work when they’re ill are only sabotaging their own organization. Working while sick and thus working unproductively (it’s called “presenteeism,” and that isn’t even newfangled management speak) might be costing the American economy $250 billion per year, by some calculations.
A frustrated nurse coming off a long shift in the emergency room shared a bit of unsolicited advice in a Facebook video over the weekend, warning people not to come to the “cesspool of funky flu at the ER” unless they really have to.
If you have the flu, here’s what you should and should not do.
Every year the common virus is lethal to many. What happens inside the body that results in death?
The best most can hope for is getting a brief cold instead of a more serious infection like the flu, an underappreciated danger that kills thousands each year. Now is the time to prepare. Take steps to reduce your and your family’s risk of sickness and assemble a flu and cold “survival kit” for when viruses come knocking.
Are you feeling under the weather? How do you know if its the Flu or just the common cold? Are Flu Shots the ultimate solution? Brush up here on all you need to know about Flu and the Flu Shot!
A growing number of U.S. hospitals now compel health care workers to get vaccinated against the flu and other infectious diseases to protect patients from communicable diseases.
A new virus arose in 1918 and wreaked havoc on a world that was not prepared for its arrival. Although advancements have come along tremendously in the 100 years since the outbreak, there is no predicting if or when an influenza pandemic could happen again.
“It was a huge lesson and remains with us today,” said Schaffner. “If you ask people in public health or infectious diseases which infection they fear the most, they will almost invariably say influenza even more so than the AIDS virus...
Researchers hope their new approach, which works well in lab animals, may save more lives.
Thousands of people have been treated at hospitals, including seemingly healthy adults, marking the worst season in a decade.
World War I claimed an estimated 16 million lives. The influenza epidemic that swept the world in 1918 killed an estimated 50 million people. One fifth of the world's population was attacked by this deadly virus. Within months, it had killed more people than any other illness in recorded history.
Arguably the biggest reason that Americans don’t seem to take the flu vaccine seriously is that it simply doesn’t live up to our expectations for what a vaccine is, and how it should work, said Dr. Pat Salber, founder of the healthcare blog The Doctor Weighs In.
More people died of influenza in a single year than in four-years of the Black Death Bubonic Plague from 1347 to 1351. Known as "Spanish Flu" or "La Grippe" the influenza of 1918-1919 was a global disaster.
The methods used to make flu vaccines are slow and sometimes unreliable, and new viruses threaten to outrun them. Can researchers find a way to stay ahead?
Viboud and Dalziel found that when the weather conditions are just right in smaller cities, influenza goes crazy and results in a major spike in flu cases over a period of a couple days or weeks. In bigger cities, constant contact between individuals means influenza can easily hop from person to person without a drastic shift in the weather. These cities may see more total influenza cases than smaller cities do, but the cases are spread out over a much longer period of time.
Are we ready for the next pandemic? I would say no. We’ve made a start in preparing, but we’re not ready for a full-on microbial assault by any stretch.
“This is the first year we have had the entire continental U.S. be the same color on the graph.” New strains may be coming.
In a paper published in 2014 in Science, our research teams documented and deconstructed the failure of Google to predict flu prevalence.
A virulent strain and mismatched vaccines led to a lethal year for the flu.
To put it flatly, H3N2 is the problem child of seasonal flu.
It causes more deaths than the other influenza A virus, H1N1, as well as flu B viruses. It’s a quirky virus that seems, at every turn, to misbehave and make life miserable for the people who contract it, the scientists trying to keep an eye on it, and the drug companies struggling to produce an effective vaccine against it.
Many companies now have policies against going into workplaces when ill, but it has taken a global pandemic to highlight what should be a basic ethical norm: an individual should be responsible for reducing the risk of passing on the pathogens they catch. One of the lessons of the covid-19 pandemic is that public health is everyone’s responsibility – or it should be.
From Chile to South Africa to New Zealand, countries report far lower numbers of influenza cases, which could be good news for the U.S. and Europe.
Flu and other seasonal ailments share symptoms with Covid. But there are some ways to help determine what’s wrong.
Humanity hasn’t always lived with the flu. Could this era of social distancing hasten its demise?
How about a shot of ultraviolet light instead of a flu shot? With seasonal vaccines often proving ineffective, researchers work on germ-killing lamps and a ‘universal vaccine’ to keep the virus at bay.
Researchers are now one step closer to hitting that target. Scientists recently completed the first human trial of a vaccine created by recombinant genetic technology to fool the immune system into attacking a part of the virus that does not change so fast and is common among different strains.
It’s more contagious, deadlier, sneakier, and more likely to cause chaos.
Influenza forecasters are a cautious bunch. Flu cases can spike in late winter after months of low infection rates, making experts reluctant to predict a mild season too soon. But many are ready to declare that COVID-19 control measures have dramatically tamped down the flu and other respiratory viruses that would normally be ripping through the Northern Hemisphere.
Most symptoms are actually caused by your immune system's response to the virus.
I am a researcher who specializes in immunology at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine, and my laboratory focuses on how influenza infection affects the body and how our bodies combat the virus. It's interesting to note that many of the body's defenses that attack the virus also cause many of the symptoms associated with the flu.
Seasonal flu is a respiratory disease that can cause fever, chills, headache, malaise, muscle pain, cough, and a sore throat. These symptoms come on really fast — within 24 hours or so — and should improve over the course of a week (but can last a little longer in young ones). Kids with flu may also experience vomiting, diarrhea, nausea, and stomach pain.
Flu season is never pleasant, but believing these fallacies make it that much worse.
Joint ECDC-WHO/Europe weekly influenza update.
The Immunization Action Coalition works to increase immunization rates and prevent disease by creating and distributing educational materials for health professionals and the public that enhance the delivery of safe and effective immunization services.
Influenza (the flu) is serious. Each year in the United States, on average:
More than 200,000 people are hospitalized from flu complications;
36,000 people die from flu.
Learn more about infectious diseases like the flu and our work to help treat them.
Mission of WHO is to
contribute to reducing death and disease due to annual influenza epidemics and
prepare for the next influenza pandemic.