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2017-2018 Influenza (Flu) Season

Influenza activity will return in the fall and peak mid-winter.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests we "Take 3" actions to fight the flu:

  1. Take time to get a flu vaccine - The CDC urges you to get a flu vaccine. Vaccination is the single most important step you can take to protect yourself and others against infection.  
  2. Take every day preventative actions to stop the spread of germs - Cover your cough; practice good hand hygiene using soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer, avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth, avoid close contact with sick people, and if you get sick, limit your contact with others.
  3. Take the flu antiviral drugs if your doctor prescribes them - It will reduce the length of illness and reduce the risk of transmitting it to others.

For more about this season's flu virus and guidance for treatment and prevention, go to the CDC website for the latest information.

Main types of Flu

The flu is a highly contagious viral respiratory tract infection, caused by the influenza virus. Influenza can make people of any age ill. There are currently three main types of influenza (described below). People who have certain medical conditions are at high risk for developing more severe symptoms or complications.

Seasonal Flu: Seasonal flu is caused by influenza viruses that infect humans each year. An estimated 5 to 20 percent of the population in the United States contract influenza each year. Seasonal flu is characterized by the abrupt onset of fever, muscle aches, sore throat, and cough. It too can lead to more severe disease such as pneumonia. It can cause death in infants and people who are very old or have chronic health problems. It is an illness that can be transmitted person to person. Most people have some immunity, and a vaccine is available.

Avian Flu: Avian influenza (AI) or "bird flu" is caused by influenza viruses that occur naturally among wild birds. Low pathogenic AI is common in birds and causes few problems. Highly pathogenic H5N1 is deadly to domestic fowl and can be transmitted from birds to humans. There is virtually no human immunity and human vaccine availability is very limited.

Pandemic Flu: Pandemic flu is a virulent human flu that causes a global outbreak, or pandemic, of serious illness. The 2009 H1N1 influenza was a pandemic flu virus. Pandemic flu is characterized by the abrupt onset of fever, muscle aches, sore throat, and cough. It often leads to more severe disease, such as pneumonia. Because there is little natural immunity, the disease can spread easily from person to person. The 2009 H1N1 pandemic virus is expected to circulate as a seasonal virus for years to come. For that reason, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH) again recommends flu vaccine (that contains a H1N1 component) be given to ALL individuals over the age of 6 months.

Here are some helpful resources on preventing and treating influenza.