It starts simply enough-a cough here, a sneeze there. Then it gets worse.
The next thing you know, the cough turns into something that makes you feel like you are coughing up a lung.
Then you start running a fever, cannot breathe, are tired and can barely move. And it is taking all the life in you just to roll over.
What is this horrible plague? Influenza, also known as the flu.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, http://cdc.gov, between five and 20 percent of the United States population catches the flu each year.
Some people are familiar with the flu. Some have caught it several times in the past, but some do not know the flu can be deadly.
The CDC site said about 36,000 people per year die from the flu and about 200,000 have to be hospitalized.
The CDC says the single best way to prevent the flu is to get vaccinated each fall, but good health habits and antiviral medications are other measures that can help protect against the flu.
The Florida Department of Health said the majority of flu vaccines are administered through private physicians, clinics, hospitals, long-term care facilities, community-based clinics and other public venues.
The FDH estimates that it facilitated the distribution of almost 2.67 million doses of flu vaccine in Florida over the 2004-2005 flu season.
There are two types of influenza vaccine. The vaccine can be administered through a shot or nasal spray.
But only the flu shot is available at the Florida A&M Student Health Services. The flu shot is available for $12.50 ($10 for the vaccine and $2.50 for the shot).
According to the CDC, the vaccines work by exposing your immune system to the flu virus. The shot contains dead viruses, the spray contains weakened flu viruses but neither will infect.
Your body will build up antibodies to the virus to protect you from getting the flu.
Some people, such as older people, young children, and people with certain health conditions, are at a high risk for serious flu complications and should be immunized.
“The flu isn’t as dangerous for teenagers and adults as it is for the elderly and children,” said Shankar Shetty, director of Student Health Services at FAMU.
“They are more susceptible to the flu because their immune systems are not as strong.”
October and November are the best time to get vaccinated, but getting vaccinated in December or even later can still be beneficial, the CDC said.
Flu season can begin as early as October and last as late as May.
The Florida Department of Health website, http://doh.state.fl.us, said flu season comes to Florida late with the peak in January and February.
Christopher Smith, a third-year, biology pre-med student from Atlanta recalls when he had the flu. “I felt horrible. My body was hurting, I was dizzy, nauseous and I had a fever.”
According to experts at the CDC, it is important to get the flu shot, because even if people catch the flu after being vaccinated, the flu symptoms should be milder than if they did not get the vaccine. You will also be less likely to get complications from the flu.
CDC reports state every year manufacturers of the flu vaccine must try to guess the type of Influenza that will hurt, hospitalize and even kill.
Once they figure out the numbers, manufactures produce the proper vaccine, containing three strains of the virus, and distribute it throughout the country.
The FDH reports that the flu vaccine is the best way to prevent being infected with the flu virus and the complications associated with flu. But everyone must be re-vaccinated each year because the flu viruses change each year.
“I felt miserable. It was a constant struggle to breathe and sleep,” said Terez Sherrod, an administrative assistant in the Center for Educational Enhancement, who was sick for about a week.
For more information on Influenza visit the CDC website or call the CDC hotline at (800) 232-2522.
Contact JacqueLynn M. Hatter at firstname.lastname@example.org