Is It the Flu?

Preventing influenza

Flu? Ebola? Enterovirus 68? The fall of 2014 is presenting unique challenges to Americans everywhere as people try to determine if they have a cold, the flu, or even the first symptoms of Ebola. Scheduling time to discuss this with a healthcare professional will help to determine what exactly a person is at risk for, what prevention methods are recommended, diagnosis of the disease based on symptoms, what treatment to use, and even development of a plan to keep you, friends, and family healthy.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone six months of age and older get an annual flu shot1. People at high-risk, such as those with heart conditions, diabetes, and asthma, as well as pregnant women and people over the age of 65 need to get their annual flu shot to potentially avoid getting seriously ill from complications of influenza. For more information on the flu vaccine, click here.

Symptoms of influenza can include, but are not limited to, fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, vomiting (mostly in children), and headaches. This fall, people may be confused about what they actually have because, with Ebola in every headline, the symptoms are so similar to symptoms of influenza: fever, severe headache, muscle pain, weakness, diarrhea, vomiting, and stomach pain. When adding Enterovirus D68 (EV-D68) into the mix, the confusion deepens since the symptoms of this virus are like flu and Ebola to some extent: fever, runny nose, sneezing, cough, and body and muscle aches.

Flu can be spread through the air and also through touching surfaces that house the influenza virus. Like influenza, EV-D68 is also spread through the air so prevention is key for both. While getting a flu shot each year is the best prevention against having the flu according to the CDC2, there are other things that can be done to lessen both flu and EV-D68, such as staying away from sick people, staying home if sick, and washing hands often with soap and water. Linens, eating utensils, and dishes belonging to those who are sick should not be shared without washing thoroughly first. Frequently touched surfaces should be cleaned and disinfected at home, work, and school, especially if someone is ill. Transmission of the Ebola virus is very different from both influenza and EV-D68. However, in addition to having similar initial symptoms, some prevention methods are very similar in that people should wash their hands with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

So what is a person to do? Talk with your healthcare professional! See your doctor, pharmacist, nurse practitioner, physician assistant, or other healthcare professionals for the facts. Flu shots are offered at many retail pharmacies and retail clinics as well as through your physician.

For a quick reference, take the vaccine quiz by clicking here to see what vaccines are necessary to keep you, friends, and family healthier each fall and year round.

Resources

  1 Key Facts about Influenza (Flu) & Flu Vaccine. (2014, September 9). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

  2 What You Should Know for the 2014-2015 Influenza Season