It’s the holiday season, meaning most of us will be out and about more often than usual. Shopping malls, restaurants, parties, church services— wherever we are, it’s a good idea to remember that crowds provide the perfect environment for influenza viruses (the flu) to spread by coughs and sneezes.
Symptoms appear one to four days after the virus enters the body. These include fever, fatigue, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose and muscle or body aches. Adults may pass the virus beginning a day before and up to a week after they develop symptoms. Children may infect others for longer than a week.
The 2009 H1N1 influenza virus and various seasonal flu viruses are still circulating throughout the world. While there’s no reason to panic, you should be aware that outbreaks due to any of these strains remain a threat.
“The best protection against influenza is immunization,” says Dr. Phil Bruno, infectious disease physician specialist and chairman of the infectious disease control committee for Kaiser Permanente’s Hawai‘i Region. “The good news is adults and children over the age of 8 will need only one vaccine this season. The 2010-2011 trivalent influenza vaccine will provide protection against the 2009-H1N1 influenza virus, the seasonal H3N2 influenza virus and the influenza B virus.”
According to Dr. Bruno, children who are 6 months to 8 years old may need two doses of the vaccine administered at least four weeks apart this year if they have never received seasonal or 2009-H1N1 influenza vaccines before, or if they have received only one dose of seasonal influenza vaccine in the past.
“The CDC recommends influenza immunizations for everyone who’s 6 months and older,” Dr. Bruno says. Influenza immunization protects you, your family and your community. It’s important for you and your loved ones to be immunized.”
For more information on the flu, visit kp.org/flu.