Influenza (flu) is an extremely contagious viral disease, occasionally called grippe. This disease mostly affects the respiratory tract. The flu is most commonly found among children, although it can affect everyone. Flu season, the months in which people are most likely to catch the flu, is from November to April.
People who are at the highest risk of getting the flu and should get preventative shots are children six months to five years of age, elderly people (fifty years or older), pregnant women, people with immune deficiencies (those under treatment for cancer, those with HIV, etc.), and any type of physician who comes in physical contact with patients. People who should not be given a shot include any child or adult allergic to eggs or any egg product, anyone who has previously had a reaction to a flu shot, babies six months or younger, any person who has Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS), and anyone who is already ill.
Influenza is spread by viral droplets released into the air by coughing or sneezing which then enter the body through the mouth or nose. A person will usually have the virus for a minimum of five days. All symptoms usually disappear within one to two weeks. The flu typically occurs in small outbreaks, but occasionally an epidemic will transpire.
When a person catches the flu, some of the symptoms that may appear include high grade fevers, headaches, muscle aches, chills, and exhaustion. The symptoms of the flu are often confused with those of a common cold, but they are usually more severe and show up more quickly than cold symptoms. Other symptoms of influenza include a sore throat, a dry cough, and swollen sinuses. Occasionally, a person infected with the flu will become nauseous and vomit. Usually, it takes about two days for the symptoms to appear. Symptoms begin to disappear three or four days after they appear, but the coughing and fatigue may linger for another week. Most people get well within a week or two. In some cases, if the illness is not treated properly, it can lead to other sickness such as bronchitis and pneumonia.