With the arrival of September, flu season will soon be upon us.
While seasonal influenza (flu) viruses can be detected year-round in the United States, flu viruses are most common during the fall and winter. The exact timing and duration of flu seasons can vary, but influenza activity often begins to increase in October. Flu activity generally peaks between December and March, although activity can last as late as May.
Flu is the common name for the Influenza Virus. Influenza is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. Most commonly, the flu is spread by coughing, sneezing, or other direct and indirect contact with airborne particles that have the virus.
The flu can cause mild to severe illness, and at times even death. Older people, young children, and people with certain health conditions – asthma, diabetes, or heart disease – and those who live in facilities like nursing homes are at a higher risk for serious flu complications. In general, people whose immune systems are compromised are at a greater risk. Healthcare workers and family members of healthcare workers are at additional risk for exposure.
There are many flu viruses, and they are constantly changing. The composition of U.S. flu vaccines is reviewed annually and updated to match circulating flu viruses. Flu vaccines protect against the three or four viruses that research suggests will be most common. For 2016-2017, three-component vaccines are recommended to contain: A (H1N1) virus, influenza A variant (H3N2) virus, and an influenza B virus.
Flu vaccines are available by appointment at the Rural Health Clinic. Please call 304-799-6200.