I don’t feel so good. The doctor says I have the flu. How bad is this stuff anyway?
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. You may have a fever, cough, headache, runny nose, stuffy nose, body aches, and sore throat. You are going to feel very tired. And, you may even have diarrhea and vomiting. In the very worst-case scenario, it can lead to death.
Wait a minute! Death? 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.
The flu is a virus. Every year it comes around in a slightly different form. The problem is that we have no way of predicting how it will change form year to year. And the form it takes in any particular year will play a large roll in determining how serious it will be.
Other factors determining the seriousness of the flu include what flu viruses are spreading, how much flu vaccine is available, when vaccine is available, how many people get vaccinated, and how well the flu vaccine is matched to flu viruses that are causing illness.
Beyond the basic unpleasantness associated with the flu, there are also serious complications that can be derived form the flu. These may include bacterial pneumonia, ear infections, sinus infections, dehydration, and worsening of chronic medical conditions such as congestive heart failure, asthma, or diabetes.
Certain people are at greater risk for these serious complications if they get the flu. This includes older people, young children, pregnant women and people with other health conditions such as asthma, diabetes, or heart disease, and persons who live in facilities like nursing homes.
You feel bad. Other people feel worse. Yes, the flu is a nasty experience. One that we all hope to avoid.