One of the worst influenza outbreaks in years continues raging across the nation, with sometimes deadly results.
In Oregon, the flu has killed at least three children this season – compared to none the prior season.
And just this week, a strain of the virus called influenza A killed 37-year-old Stephanie Shradar and her unborn child. It left Stephanie’s husband, Lee Shradar, a widower and their two daughters, ages 5 and 7, motherless.
Influenza A can be dangerous, but it’s not an automatic killer, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Here are a few things you should know about the virus.
Influenza is a respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. The illness can be mild, but it can also cause hospitalization and death.
According to the CDC, symptoms generally include fever, cough, sore throat, runny nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue.
But the flu is not like the typical cold – it can and does kill. Complications include pneumonia, ear and sinus infections or worsening of other pre-existing medical conditions.
Influenza is contagious and anyone can get it, although children, the elderly and people with certain medical conditions are at greater risk. The “flu season” is generally October through May.
Most scientists believe flu spreads when bits of the virus travel through the air as people with it cough, sneeze or talk. The virus bits land in the mouth or noses of uninfected people and get them sick.
Influenza is treatable, and it’s important to quickly contact a health care professional if symptoms emerge.
Antiviral drugs can be used to treat flu. If your doctor prescribes them, take them.
If you get sick, the CDC recommends you stay home at least 24 hours and keep contact with other people to a minimum to reduce the likelihood you will infect others.
Most people don’t need to visit the emergency department when they get the flu. But the CDC recommends people seek emergency health care if they have trouble breathing, bluish lips or skin, persistent chest pain or muscle pain, dehydration and high fever, among other emergency conditions.
The CDC recommends getting a flu vaccine each year to help prevent the spread of influenza. Flu vaccines are safe and shown to reduce the virus’ spread and lessen the risk of complications.
The CDC also recommends employing general sanitation techniques, like staying away from sick people, covering coughs and sneezes and regular handwashing.
Getting a flu vaccine is easy.
You can use the CDC’s online flu shot finder and locate providers by your zip code. Vaccines are also typically available at your local pharmacy.
— Gordon R. Friedman