Flu (Influenza) Virus
The flu (influenza) virus is constantly changing and a flu pandemic could happen at anytime. There are three classifications of the flu that you should know: seasonal flu, pandemic flu, and bird (avian) flu. They are described in more detail below:
Refers to several common strains (specific forms) of
flu virus that go around each year, mainly in fall and
winter. A yearly shot (vaccine) can help prevent it.
Occurs when a new strain starts spreading easily and quickly around the world. Depending on the strength of the strain, it can cause:
- many people to get sick at once - producing a vaccine for it will take time
- severe illness and many deaths
- a short supply of food, goods and services if many workers stay home, medical or government services get overlooked, or travel is restricted, for example.
Bird (avian) Flu
Refers to flu strains that mainly infect poultry and some wild birds. If a flu were to evolve in a way that let it spread to people - and then spread easily between people - a flu pandemic could begin.
Know About Flu Germs
They spread mainly through people's
coughs and sneezes. These things can spray droplets through the air and:
- into the mouths or noses of people nearby
- onto surfaces that people touch before touching their nose, mouth or eyes.
In rare cases, humans can also catch flu germs from
an infected bird, pig or other animal. This could happen through contact with feces, saliva, mucus, raw meat or raw eggs from the animal.
Different flu strains may cause
similar symptoms. But a pandemic flu may be more severe. Unless a
pandemic has begun, symptoms most likely mean
seasonal flu - or a different illness that causes flu-like
symptoms. Flu symptoms generally:
- start within 10 days (usually 2) of exposure
- include fever, chills, headache, body aches, sore throat, coughing, sneezing
and shortness of breath.
Healthy Habits & Prevention
Healthy habits can help prevent the flu and other illnesses. Some steps you can take to help avoid getting or spreading flu germs include:
- Cover coughs and sneezes.
- If you get sick, act responsibly by
- calling your health care provider.
- finding out if you should stay home.
- finding out how to protect others.
- finding out how to treat systems.
- Get any available flu shots.
- Don't share personal items (ie. towels, razors, utensils, toothbrushes, etc.).
- Thoroughly cook meat, poultry, and eggs and practice food safety.
- Support "common good" efforts developed by the authorities to help stop or slow a flu pandemic.
- Create an emergency kit storing enough bottled water, food and other supplies to last at least 2 weeks.
- Check the news regularly for announcements or visit the Health Department's website regularly.
- Travel wisely. Visit www.cdc.gov/travel for more information.
- Find out if your job requires additional preparation or prevention steps. Visit www.osha.gov or www.aphis.usda.gov for more information.
- Report sick poultry or groups of dead wildlife to the USDA by calling 1-866-536-7593.
- Teach your children how to protect themselves.
You may wish to learn more about the flu and and pandemic flu by visiting/calling: