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Flu

What is the flu?

The flu, also called influenza, is a respiratory infection caused by viruses. Each year, millions of Americans get sick with the flu. Sometimes it causes mild illness. But it can also be serious or even deadly, especially for people over 65, newborn babies, and people with certain chronic illnesses.

What causes the flu?

The flu is caused by flu viruses that spread from person to person. When someone with the flu coughs, sneezes, or talks, they spray tiny droplets. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby. Less often, a person may get flu by touching a surface or object that has flu virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes.

What are the symptoms of the flu?

Symptoms of the flu come on suddenly and may include

  • Fever or feeling feverish/chills
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue (tiredness)

Some people may also have vomiting and diarrhea. This is more common in children.

Sometimes people have trouble figuring out whether they have a cold or the flu. There are differences between them. The symptoms of a cold usually come on more slowly and are less severe than symptoms of the flu. Colds rarely cause a fever or headaches.

Sometimes people say that they have a "flu" when they really have something else. For example, "stomach flu" isn't the flu; it's gastroenteritis.

What other problems can the flu cause?

Some people who get the flu will develop complications. Some of these complications can be serious or even life-threatening. They include

  • Bronchitis
  • Ear infection
  • Sinus infection
  • Pneumonia
  • Inflammation of the heart (myocarditis), brain (encephalitis), or muscle tissues (myositis, rhabdomyolysis)

The flu also can make chronic health problems worse. For example, people with asthma may have asthma attacks while they have flu.

Certain people are more likely to have complications from the flu, including

  • Adults 65 and older
  • Pregnant women
  • Children younger than 5
  • People with certain chronic health conditions, such as asthma, diabetes, and heart disease
How is the flu diagnosed?

To diagnose the flu, health care providers will first do a medical history and ask about your symptoms. There are several tests for the flu. For the tests, your provider will swipe the inside of your nose or the back of your throat with a swab. Then the swab will be tested for the flu virus.

Some tests are quick and give results in 15-20 minutes. But these tests are not as accurate as other flu tests. These other tests can give you the results in one hour or several hours.

What are the treatments for the flu?

Most people with the flu recover on their own without medical care. People with mild cases of the flu should stay home and avoid contact with others, except to get medical care.

But if you have symptoms of flu and are in a high risk group or are very sick or worried about your illness, contact your health care provider. You might need antiviral medicines to treat your flu. Antiviral medicines can make the illness milder and shorten the time you are sick. They also can prevent serious flu complications. They usually work best when you start taking them within 2 days of getting sick.

Can the flu be prevented?

The best way to prevent the flu is to get flu vaccine every year. But it's also important to have good health habits like covering your cough and washing your hands often. This can help stop the spread of germs and prevent the flu.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Haemophilus Infections

Haemophilus is the name of a group of bacteria. There are several types of Haemophilus. They can cause different types of illnesses involving breathing, bones and joints, and the nervous system.

One common type, Hib (Haemophilus influenzae type b), causes serious disease. It usually strikes children under 5 years old. Your child can get Hib disease by being around other children or adults who may have the bacteria and not know it. The germs spread from person to person. If the germs stay in the child's nose and throat, the child probably will not get sick. But sometimes the germs spread into the lungs or the bloodstream, and then Hib can cause serious problems such as meningitis and pneumonia.

Treatment is with antibiotics. There is a vaccine to prevent Hib disease. All children younger than 5 years of age should be vaccinated with the Hib vaccine.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Homeless Health Concerns

What are the causes of homelessness?

Each night, hundreds of thousands of people experience homelessness in the United States. Some of these people experience chronic homelessness, while others have temporarily lost their shelter. The reasons why they are homelessness are complex. They can include a combination of factors such as

  • Poverty
  • Unemployment
  • Lack of affordable housing
  • Mental and substance use disorders
  • Trauma and violence
  • Domestic violence
  • Justice-system involvement
  • Sudden serious illness
  • Divorce
  • Death of a partner or parent
  • Disabilities
What is the link between homelessness and health?

Poor health can contribute to homelessness. And being homeless can contribute to poor health. Many of the problems that people experiencing homelessness face can make their health worse, including

  • Limited access to health care
  • Problems getting enough food
  • Trouble staying safe
  • Violence
  • Stress
  • Unsanitary living conditions
  • Exposure to severe weather
What are some of the common health problems that people experiencing homelessness have?

Some of the common health problems that people experiencing homelessness may have include

  • HIV/AIDS
  • Lung diseases, including bronchitis, tuberculosis, and pneumonia
  • Malnutrition
  • Mental health problems
  • Substance use problems
  • Wounds and skin infections

Many people experiencing homelessness are dealing with trauma. They may have been abused or assaulted. This includes homeless children, who are at risk for emotional and behavioral problems.

Contact your local homelessness assistance agency to get the help you need, such as access to shelters, health centers, and free meals.

Interstitial Lung Diseases

Interstitial lung disease is the name for a large group of diseases that inflame or scar the lungs. The inflammation and scarring make it hard to get enough oxygen. The scarring is called pulmonary fibrosis.

Breathing in dust or other particles in the air is responsible for some types of interstitial lung diseases. Specific types include

  • Black lung disease among coal miners, from inhaling coal dust
  • Farmer's lung, from inhaling farm dust
  • Asbestosis, from inhaling asbestos fibers
  • Siderosis, from inhaling iron from mines or welding fumes
  • Silicosis, from inhaling silica dust

Other causes include autoimmune diseases or occupational exposures to molds, gases, or fumes. Some types of interstitial lung disease have no known cause.

Treatment depends on the type of exposure and the stage of the disease. It may involve medicines, oxygen therapy, or a lung transplant in severe cases.

Lung Diseases

When you breathe, your lungs take in oxygen from the air and deliver it to the bloodstream. The cells in your body need oxygen to work and grow. During a normal day, you breathe nearly 25,000 times. People with lung disease have difficulty breathing. Millions of people in the U.S. have lung disease. If all types of lung disease are lumped together, it is the number three killer in the United States.

The term lung disease refers to many disorders affecting the lungs, such as asthma, COPD, infections like influenza, pneumonia and tuberculosis, lung cancer, and many other breathing problems. Some lung diseases can lead to respiratory failure.

Dept. of Health and Human Services Office on Women's Health