The influenza virus is a seasonal epidemic that typically hits the United States around October and can last until May. Even though this is a yearly occurrence, there are still some misconceptions about the flu and what people should do to protect themselves. To keep our readers informed, we are doing a two-part series on important facts people should know about the flu. Part two will be released next week.
- The flu is not just a “severe cold.” This is a dangerous myth that gets repeated because people don’t understand the difference between the flu and the common cold. While both are viral infections, the flu can lead to hospitalization in vulnerable populations, while the common cold very rarely leads to any complications. If you are experiencing body aches, muscle fatigue and headaches in addition to cold-like symptoms, you might want to plan a visit to your doctor.
- Each year, about 20 percent of Americans are affected by the flu. Many among this number are people who can’t get the flu vaccination because they are too young or old or because they have compromised immune systems. People with certain medical conditions and those who don’t get the flu vaccine are also especially vulnerable.
- More than 200,000 people have to be hospitalized each year due to the flu. This adds up to about $10.4 billion in direct health care costs, plus the cost of lost productivity for workers who are too sick to come to the office. The flu can cost an individual about $130 due to doctor visits and medications, and those without sick days can lose about $92 in wages from missing work. Compared to these costs, the flu vaccine can be a lot cheaper; it’s free with most insurance plans, and full price is typically around $10 at urgent care facilities like AFC/Doctors Express.
- The people who are usually the most affected are children younger than six months, adults older than 65, pregnant women and people with certain health conditions that compromise their immune systems. If you or a family member fit into any of these groups, it’s important that everyone get a flu vaccine and practice healthy habits, such as good hand-washing techniques.
- The flu kills by progressing rapidly, causing difficulty breathing or leaving the body vulnerable to more serious bacterial infections. This means if you notice a sudden progression of symptoms or shortness of breath, a doctor or urgent care facility needs to be your first stop. These types of changes can be difficult to predict, and it can get out of control extremely fast. Even people who seem to be in perfect health can die from the flu.
So that was the first set of facts about flu season in the United States. Because of the myths surrounding the flu, this annual epidemic can be easy to ignore until you’re impacted by it. To keep yourself and your family safe, be sure you take preventive measures, and visit your local AFC/Doctors Express!