CDC says flu has reached “epidemic” levels

By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer

The flu usually causes symptoms like headaches, fever, and coughing.

Flu season is sweeping through the USA, and that means it’s probably time to visit the doctor’s office for a vaccination dose. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warns that this year’s flu is now an epidemic, which is when an infectious disease spreads very quickly through a community. But… what exactly is the flu, and how do flu vaccines work?

People often claim to have the flu when their nose is stuffy or their throat is sore. However, these symptoms are generally caused by respiratory (breathing-related) infections. A real flu is triggered by the influenza virus, which invades the body cell by cell and wreaks havoc. Some of the most common symptoms of the flu include chills, fever, runny nose, sore throat, fatigue, headache, and muscle pains.

When a person catches the virus, it can take anywhere from one to two weeks before the symptoms disappear. However, an individual can reduce the intensity of their symptoms by getting an influenza vaccine.

A vaccine is simply a dead or weakened version of a particular strain of a virus. When a medical professional injects the dose into a patient, their immune system (the body’s natural defenses) get straight to work creating antibodies – proteins that attack and destroy foreign substances that invade the body. Since the vaccine contains a weaker form of the virus, the immune system has a chance to build up antibodies. This means that when the full-blown virus hits, the body will be much better equipped to get the pesky invaders out. It’s important to note that vaccines are just as important for the community as they are for the individuals who get the treatment, as they help reduce the chances of the virus spreading!

Image of feverish man courtesy of Marco Raaphorst on Flickr.