Influenza (or flu) is a highly contagious viral respiratory tract infection. It usually starts quickly, with fever, muscle aches, sore throat, and a dry cough.
“People of all ages can get the flu,” said Elizabeth Fagan, M.D., medical director of the emergency department at Baylor Medical Center at McKinney. Although most people are ill with the flu for only a few days, some have a much more serious illness and may need to be hospitalized. Influenza can also lead to pneumonia and even death in some cases.
“Last year, Baylor McKinney treated 423 cases,” said Dr. Fagan. Influenza viruses continually change, or mutate, which is why physicians recommend getting a flu vaccine each year. The mutation process works like this:
- A person infected with an influenza virus develops antibodies against that virus.
- The virus changes.
- The “older” antibodies no longer recognize the “newer,” mutated, virus.
- The person can become infected again.
More than 100 countries worldwide conduct surveillance year-round and send their results to the World Health Organization Collaborating Center for Reference and Research on Influenza. The vaccine is updated every year based on which flu strains are making patients sick, how those viruses are spreading and how well the previous vaccine protected patients from getting sick.
How does the flu spread?
The influenza virus is generally passed from person to person through the air when an infected person sneezes or coughs. But the virus can also live for a short time on objects like doorknobs, pens, pencils, keyboards, telephone receivers, and eating or drinking utensils. You can get the flu by touching something that has been handled by someone infected with the virus and then touching your own mouth, nose, or eyes.
What are the symptoms of the flu?
The following are the most common symptoms of the flu:
• Runny or stuffy nose
• Severe aches and pains
• Fatigue or feeling very tired
• Sometimes a sore throat
How can the flu be prevented?
A new influenza vaccine is available each year.. There are both trivalent (protects against 3 strains) and quadravalent (protects against 4 strains) vaccines available this year. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that infants over the age of 6 months and all children and adults get flu shots every year as soon as the vaccine is available in their area.
Some people are at increased risk of developing serious complications from the flu. It is extremely important that these people get the vaccine: They include those with:
• Chronic heart and lung conditions
• Other serious medical conditions such as:
• Endocrine disorders, like diabetes
• Kidney or liver disorders
• Weak immune system from disease or treatment; for example those with HIV or AIDS or taking long-term steroids or medications to treat cancer or prevent rejection from a transplant
• Blood disorders such as sickle cell disease
About Baylor Medical Center at McKinney
Baylor Medical Center at McKinney opened in July 2012 to bring Baylor’s quality brand of health care to residents of McKinney and the surrounding communities. Part of Baylor Scott & White Health – the largest not-for-profit health care system in Texas – Baylor McKinney has more than 650 employees and a medical staff of more than 800 physicians.
The hospital offers treatment in multiple specialties, including orthopedics, cardiovascular, neurosciences, oncology, surgical services, women’s and childbirth services and more. Baylor McKinney offers 143 all-private rooms with chef-prepared meals and other hotel-like amenities.
About Baylor Scott & White Health
Baylor Scott & White Health, the organization formed from the 2013 merger between Baylor Health Care System and Scott & White Healthcare, is today the largest not-for-profit health care system in the state of Texas. With total assets of $9 billion* and serving a population larger than the state of Virginia, Baylor Scott & White Health has the vision and resources to provide its patients continued quality care while creating a model system for a dramatically changing health care environment. The organization now includes 49 hospitals, more than 800 access points, more than 5,800 active physicians, 35,000 employees and the Scott & White Health Plan. For more information visit: BaylorScottandWhite.com
* based on unaudited 2014 fiscal year statements
Physicians provide clinical services as members of the medical staff at one of Baylor Scott & White Health’s subsidiary, community or affiliated medical centers and do not provide clinical services as employees or agents of those medical centers, Baylor Health Care System, Scott & White Healthcare or Baylor Scott & White Health. ©2015 Baylor Scott & White Health.