Before and during the flu season, it is important to learn about influenza and how to keep yourself and your family as healthy as possible this winter.
What is influenza (flu)?
Influenza is an illness that is caused by a virus that can make you feel very sick. Every year in the United States, influenza epidemics occur during the winter months. In fluenza (the flu) is a viral infection that is very contagious. It can spread from person-to-person in droplets created by coughing and sneezing. It can also be spread when people cough or sneeze onto their hands, and then touch things. Anyone can get the flu. However, some people can get much sicker. The young, the elderly, and people with chronic heart or lung conditions can get very sick from the flu.
What are the symptoms of the flu?
Symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, headache, chills, muscle aches, and fatigue. In people with CF, influ enza can lead to severe pneumonia. If you have the flu, you will develop many of the symptoms listed above. Most likely you will feel worse than you do with your usual pulmonary exacerbation. It is very important to let your CF care team know if you have flu-like symptoms, as soon as possible.
What can we do to prevent influenza?
The CF community and immunization experts have developed the following guidelines to reduce the impact of influenza on the CF community:
Are there any side affects from the flu shot?
The flu shot does not give you the flu, because the vi ruses in the flu shot are killed (inactivated). The risk of the flu shot causing serious harm is extremely small. However, like any vaccine, you could have mild side effects such as soreness, redness or swelling where the shot was given, a low grade fever, or some mild aches. If these problems happen, they will begin shortly after the shot and usually last 1-2 days. If you are allergic to eggs, talk with your doctor about other ways to get the flu vaccine.
What is an influenza pandemic?
A pandemic is a disease outbreak that occurs around the world. A flu pandemic occurs if a new flu strain emerges for which people have little or no immunity and for which there is no available vaccine. Thus, a flu pandemic could spread easily person-to-person and cause serious illness in many people in many countries in a very short time. It is difficult to predict if and when the next flu pandemic might occur or how severe it could be.
Should we be worried about Avian Influenza (the bird flu)?
There is concern that the avian flu virus (H5N1) could spark a flu pandemic if it evolved into a virus capable of spreading between people. At this time, the avian flu rarely affects people. If it does it is only from direct contact with infected birds or surfaces with germs from the sick birds. Passing the virus between people is very rare. Public health authorities are carefully tracking the activity of bird flu. Your care center and the CF Foundation will keep you updated if the risk of a bird flu pandemic increases.
We hope that you have found this information useful. To learn more about germs and infection control, you can read the pamphlet: "Respiratory: What You Should Know About Germs" available from your care center or the CF Foundation. Should you have specific questions, please feel free to contact your care center or contact the CF Foundation at 800-FIGHT CF or firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information on flu, visit the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) or the World Health Organization.
Contagious—Able to be spread from person to person, like an illness
Droplet—A tiny drop of liquid that comes from the mouth, nose or lungs
Epidemics—A disease affecting many people at the same time that spreads from person to person.
Exacerbation—Signs and symptoms that show a need for treatment
Immunity—The body's ability to protect itself against germs Pandemic - A disease occuring around the whole world, essentially an epidemic on a worldwide scale.
Pneumonia—An inflammation of the lungs often caused by a bacterial or viral infection
Vaccine—A solution put into the body to build a defense against disease
Virus—A tiny organism that can cause infections