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The word influenza comes from the Italian influentia
The flu is a common contagious illness caused by an infection of the influenza virus. Some of the typical flu symptoms include fever, sore throat, coughs, chills, stuffy or runny nose, body aches, and fatigue.
The flu season strikes every year in the fall to winter months and infects about 35 to 40 million people in the US alone. With flu season right around the corner, here are nine interesting facts to help you learn more about the flu.
'Flu' is short for influenza, a term that originates from the Italian word influentia. Influentia translates to influence in English. In medieval times, it was believed that this sickness was caused by an ethereal influence of the sun, moon, planets, and stars. People accepted that such a widespread disease outbreak could only be a result of the powers of the cosmos. The influenza pandemic of 1743 originated in Rome and spread throughout Europe, bringing the word flu (originally spelled as flue) to the English language.
About 8% of the US population get sick from the flu each season
A 2018 study by the CDC suggests that roughly 8% of people in the country annually catch the flu. The estimated range is between 3% and 11%, depending on the season and time of the year. Perhaps this is a much smaller percentage than you had imagined!
The flu is contagious even before symptoms can be seen
The flu is highly contagious and can spread from your body to others before you even know you are sick. The CDC reports that it is possible for you to infect others beginning 1 day before symptoms can be seen. The flu usually remains transmissible for 5 to 7 days after becoming sick. Children and people with weak immune systems can spread the virus for longer than 7 days.
The flu vaccine changes slightly every year
There are many different types of flu vaccines and their specific compositions are a little different each year. Viruses are constantly mutating and changing their form. The dominant flu virus that might cause an infection this season will be different from the one that circulated last year. Therefore, you need a new flu vaccine each year to protect yourself from the modified virus.
Flu season peaks between December and February
As you may have experienced, flu season generally peaks in the winter months, namely December through February. However, flu activity in the US remains high throughout the months of October to May, as well. This means that you can catch the flu even in the fall or spring months. To protect yourself from the seasonal outbreak, you'd want to schedule your flu shot before October each year.
Flu viruses can live up to 48 hours on hard surfaces
Flu viruses can survive up to 48 hours on firm, nonporous surfaces like stainless steel, glass, and plastics. They can also live up to 12 hours on softer surfaces like clothes, linen, and tissues. If someone in your home has the flu, take care to wash or sanitize any and all surfaces they may have come in contact with. When you recover, you will want to wash your linens and clothes that you used or wore while ill.
The flu can cause life-threatening complications
Although most people recover from the flu within two weeks, some individuals can develop potentially fatal complications. The flu can trigger moderate complications like sinus infections and pneumonia, or serious conditions like myocarditis, encephalitis, and even multi-organ failure. These complications are rare, but older adults and people with chronic health conditions are at higher risk.
Your pets can get the flu, but you won't catch it from them
Just like humans, animals can catch the flu. Your pet may even have similar symptoms to you, like sneezing, coughing, and fatigue. However, viruses are species-specific, meaning that the virus making your pet sick cannot infect humans. You can rest easy knowing that your pets can neither infect you with the virus, nor can they catch the flu from you.
Vitamin C will not protect you from the flu
While Vitamin C can help boost your immune system to fight off the infection, it cannot prevent you from catching the flu. The myth that Vitamin C will protect you against the flu first appeared in the 1970s and has been a prevalent notion ever since. A large-scale systematic review found that taking daily Vitamin C supplements over a long term is not effective in preventing the flu. However, large doses of Vitamin C may help reduce its duration and symptoms if you already have the flu.
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Clinical Infectious Diseases: "Seasonal Incidence of Symptomatic Influenza in the United States."
Emerging Infectious Diseases: "Etymologia: influenza."
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