Influenza, more commonly known as the flu, may not always be thought of as a serious illness. The symptoms — a runny nose, headaches, cough, and muscle pain — are mild for some. But seasonal influenza can be more severe than people think.
From the infamous flu pandemic in 1918 to the global 2009 “swine flu,” this constantly evolving disease can kill an average of 600,000 people each year.
According to the CDC's estimates for 2019 to 2020, in the United States:
- 35 million people had the flu
- 16 million went to a health care provider for the flu
- 380,000 people were hospitalized for the flu
- 20,000 people died of the flu
National Influenza Vaccination Week (12/05/2021 to 12/11/2021)
The CDC established National Influenza Vaccination Week (NIVW) in 2005 to stress the importance of the vaccine flu shot — through the traditional “flu season” and beyond.
It’s recommended that anyone over the age of 6 months gets the flu vaccine each year. This is especially important for high-risk groups like pregnant women, young children, adults over age 65, and people with pre-existing conditions.
Why Get the Influenza Vaccine?
If you get influenza, you might experience symptoms like:
- Moderate to high fever
- Dry Cough
- Sore throat
- Runny nose
- Loss of appetite
- Muscle aches
While there’s some overlap with the symptoms of a common cold, influenza symptoms tend to hit faster and harder. The illness can also last longer — up to two or three weeks.
The influenza vaccine, which comes as either a shot or a nasal spray, is one of the best ways to protect yourself and your loved ones this flu season.
Getting a flu vaccine offers the best preventative care. During the 2019 to 2020 season, vaccinations prevented an estimated 7.5 million illnesses.
Avoiding serious complications
Whether or not you’re considered high-risk, the flu can lead to serious complications. According to the CDC’s stats, vaccinations also prevented 3.7 million medical visits, 105,000 hospitalizations, and 6,300 deaths due to influenza.
National Influenza Week and Beyond: How to Deal with the Flu
If you or someone in your household gets sick with the flu, it's important to focus on overall wellness to speed your recovery. Here are some ways to ease your symptoms:
- Getting plenty of rest
- Drinking water
- Run a humidifier
- Suck on a lozenge
- Use saline nose drops
You can also try over-the-counter medications to relieve symptoms like aches, pain, fever, cough, and sore throat. For more targeted relief, medications like Tamiflu can treat the flu. This antiviral drug is used to prevent and treat flu symptoms — not colds or other viral infections. If taken early enough, it can even prevent people from getting sick in the first place.
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