Influenza, commonly known as the flu, kills about 36,000 Americans each year, mostly the elderly. Influenza can lead to pneumonia and can be dangerous for people with heart or breathing conditions (like emphysema or asthma), but it is particularly dangerous for transplant patients and people with suppressed immune systems.
Influenza is a respiratory infection caused by one of several viruses. Tell-tale signs of the flu are:
- Sudden onset of illness;
- A fever over 101 degrees that lasts three to four days;
- Tiredness/weakness that can last from two to three weeks;
- Muscle aches and pains; and
- Chest discomfort
With the New York State Department of Health announcement that influenza activity is currently prevalent in New York state, taking the necessary precautions to avoid the respiratory illness is critical. Hygiene is key to fighting the flu – you should wash your hands frequently, and be sure to cover your coughs and sneezes.
The best prevention against the flu is to get vaccinated. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends vaccination for everyone six months of age and older. If you have not already received the flu vaccine for this season, it is not too late.
The CDC notes vaccination is particularly important for people who are at high risk of serious complications from influenza, such as organ transplant recipients. For transplant recipients, it is critical for close contacts (immediate family and individuals with whom the recipient lives) to also receive the vaccine.
Points to remember:
- Vaccines are safer and more effective today than ever before.
- Vaccines don’t weaken the immune system, they actually boost the immune system.
- The flu IS NOT CAUSED by the vaccine.
- It takes about two weeks for full protection to develop.
There is a small group of people who should not receive a flu vaccine because of severe allergies or certain pre-existing conditions. Ask your doctor if there is any reason that you should NOT receive a flu shot, especially if you had an organ transplant less than three months ago.