Dr. Carmen Burrell

It’s almost spring, so you don’t have to worry about the flu anymore, right? Unfortunately, you can get the flu anytime throughout the year, although it peaks from December through February. WVU Urgent Care Medical Director Carmen Burrell, DO, explains.

What are the common flu symptoms?
Influenza, abbreviated as flu, is a viral respiratory infection that most often causes fever, body aches, coughing, and a sore throat. Usually, these symptoms are accompanied by fatigue, headache, and nasal symptoms.

How is it spread?
It can be passed to another person easily through sneezing, coughing, living in close quarters, and using the same space. Flu is contagious for one or two days before symptoms develop and for up to one week after becoming ill.

How can flu be prevented?
Getting vaccinated each year is the best way to prevent the flu, and both WVU Urgent Care locations (Suncrest Towne Centre and Evansdale) still have flu shots available. It takes up to two weeks to develop immunity after immunization. Also, practice good health habits like washing your hands often and covering your mouth when you cough, to stop the spread of germs. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth.

Is medicine needed to fight it off?
If you get the flu, you’ll most likely have mild illness; you will not need medical care or antiviral drugs, and you’ll recover in less than two weeks. If you’re a young, healthy individual, your body usually fights the flu off naturally. Those who are high risk for the flu may experience complications and need medical treatment.

Who is high risk for the flu?
People who may experience flu-related complications include children under two years old, people over age 65, and pregnant women. People with the following chronic diseases and conditions are also at greater risk: autoimmune diseases, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, lung diseases, neurological diseases, obesity, and anyone with a suppressed immune system, including patients undergoing cancer treatment or who have HIV infection. Residents of long-term care facilities are also at higher risk and should be evaluated by a doctor when flu symptoms develop. 

Flu vaccination and the correct use of flu antiviral medicines are very important if you are high risk for the flu. Many physician offices can do a nasal swab to check for Influenza A and B. This is recommended for high-risk patients or those who have had close contact with others who are high risk. 

What should I do if I get the flu?
Stay isolated from others at home if possible. Rest and hydrate. Try to boost your immune system with a healthy diet. Try over-the-counter (OTC) medications to treat the symptoms, but be aware that some could cause complications if you have other health problems, such as hypertension. Talk to your doctor about the best OTC treatment for you. If symptoms persist or worsen, see your doctor to be evaluated for risk of another infection or complication. 

Need a flu shot? Call 855-WVU-CARE to make an appointment with a primary care provider or visit a WVU Urgent Care location in Morgantown or Fairmont.