There’s been so much talk about Covid-19 the last few years you may have forgotten about the flu! But even though Covid-19 has been top-of-mind for most people, the influenza virus is still alive and well. You may think that because spring is here, you’re out of the woods for getting the flu. While typically flu season occurs in the fall and winter, it can actually last as late as May. While its important to test for Covid if you think you might have it, it’s equally important not to forget about influenza A.
How serious is influenza A?
The influenza type A virus is one of the most common causes of flu, so most people who get the flu have been infected with the influenza A virus. It’s a very contagious respiratory virus, spread when someone infected with the virus sneezes, coughs or talks, sending droplets of the virus into the air. It can also be contracted by touching a surface that has the virus on it, then touching your face, nose, or mouth. It’s important to stay home when you have it, so you don’t spread it to others. Most cases of influenza A are not life-threatening, but children, the elderly or people with compromised immune systems can be more at-risk.
Is it the same as the bird flu?
Not exactly. Influenza A is actually a family of virus strains, some affect birds and animals and some affect humans. There are many different strains of Avian influenza, or “bird flu,” and most of them don’t infect humans. Although people aren’t easily infected with bird flu, there have been some cases. In February 2021 H5N8 was found to have infected a small number of people for the first time, in Russia. Currently, it poses a low risk to the general public in the United States.
How do I know if it’s Influenza A or Covid-19?
Influenza A and Covid-19 are both contagious respiratory illnesses but caused by different viruses. Covid-19 seems to spread more easily and be more serious but can also take longer to show symptoms. Since it can be tough to know the difference, if you’re unsure the best thing you can do is get tested. This can be easily done by visiting your local health care provider.
What are the symptoms?
Influenza A often gets mistaken for the common cold. The difference is that influenza A typically occurs with a sudden onset of symptoms such as: coughing, runny nose, congestion, fever, sore throat, headache, fatigue, and body aches. Symptoms can last anywhere from 7 to 10 days. If symptoms continue past 14 days or continue to get worse, it’s important to see a doctor.
What can I take for it?
Influenza A can’t be treated with an antibiotic, but you can ease your flu symptoms by taking some over-the-counter cough and cold medicines or pain relievers. Be sure to read the instructions prior to taking anything. The best treatment is staying home, getting plenty of rest, drinking fluids, and any remedies that may help you find temporary relief – such as taking cough drops, soaking in an Epsom salt bath or running a humidifier to help you sleep.
Not only is the influenza A virus contagious, and spread widely in a community, but it also changes continually with new strains developing each year. Therefore, getting a flu shot is recommended each year.
Will the flu shot help?
Yes, and it’s not too late to get a flu shot! Getting a flu shot can help protect yourself and others from the seasonal flu. Much of the focus has been on getting the Covid-19 vaccine, so many people may have forgotten the importance of also getting a flu shot.
Visit Orchard Hospital at our Medical Specialty Center—Your Everyday Health Care Clinic—if you think you may be coming down with the flu or would like to get a flu shot. We offer flu immunizations as well as screening, diagnosis, and treatment for the flu. We will take care of you quickly and efficiently. Appointments are recommended, but walk-ins are welcome. Open 7 days a week. It’s our goal to have fast and friendly care while delivering quality health care.