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Seasonal Flu: Overview
Influenza is a serious respiratory disease caused by a virus that is spread from person to person through direct contact or droplets in the air. Influenza can cause fever, cough, runny or stuffy nose, chills, sore throat, headaches, fatigue, and muscle aches. Symptoms typically last one to two weeks, but may last longer and require hospitalization.

The influenza season usually occurs from November until April. Typically activity is very low until December, and peak activity usually occurs between late December and early March. Since it takes about one to two weeks after vaccination for the antibody against influenza to develop and provide protection, now is the best time to receive the vaccine.

In the annual seasonal flu, certain people are at “high risk” of serious complications. This includes people 65 years and older, children younger than five years old, pregnant women, and people of any age with certain chronic medical conditions. About 70 percent of people who have been hospitalized with the novel H1N1 virus have had one or more medical conditions previously recognized as placing people at “high risk” of serious seasonal flu-related complications. This includes pregnancy, diabetes, heart disease, asthma, and kidney disease.

One thing that appears to be different from seasonal flu is that adults older than 64 years do not yet appear to be at increased risk of novel H1N1-related complications so far. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) laboratory studies have shown that no children and very few adults younger than 60 years old have existing antibody to novel H1N1 flu virus. However, about one-third of adults older than 60 years old may have antibodies against the virus. The information analyzed by CDC supports the conclusion that novel H1N1 flu has caused greater disease burden in people younger than 25 years of age than older people. At this time, there are few cases and few deaths reported in people older than 64 years old, which is unusual when compared with seasonal flu. Keep in mind this is not the case with the high-risk populations (pregnancy, diabetes, heart disease, asthma, kidney disease, suppressed immune systems, and neurocognitive and neuromuscular disorders).

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