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Influenza, or the flu, attacks up to one
people annually. In the US, it kills 20,000
, most of whom are children or elderly. Occasionally
flu becomes pandemic: in 1918, it killed 20
people worldwide. The flu is a very contagious
infection spread through the air by coughing, sneezing,
simply talking. It is not caused by getting
in a rainstorm or by sleeping with the
or air-conditioning on.
The incubation period is about
days. It doesn’t sneak up on you, like
cold does. All of a sudden, you feel
, you have a high fever, you have chills,
cough frequently and forcefully, your throat is sore,
your body aches.
For most adults, the treatment
to simply wait it out: stay home, get
of bed rest, drink lots of fluids, and
over-the-counter medications such as aspirin, pain-killers, and nasal
. Symptoms usually go away within two weeks. For
elderly and young, the initial viral infection may
a bacterial infection with deadly consequences, because the
becomes too weak to battle the disease. The
rate for the general population is about one
1,000. Those most susceptible to severe effects of
flu are people over 65 and people with
heart or lung problems, such as asthma.
in the US is usually December to March.
best prevention, of course, is to stay away
infected people. Since that is almost impossible, the
best preventive strategy is to get an annual
shot. This vaccine reduces the number of people
get infected—and who die—yearly.