Flu bug got you down? Are your officemates hacking and wheezing, laid low by something that's going around?
In case you're lucky enough to have escaped a severe case of influenza, the symptoms to look out for are fever accompanied by a dry, hacking cough. The fever, typically between 102 and 106 in adults, usually goes away in a couple of days. Other symptoms can linger for a week or two.
Influenza is caused by viruses built around ribonucleic acid, in the Orthomyxoviridae family. The viruses spend their time circling the globe, looking for any weaknesses in the immune systems of birds and mammals. Now and then a mutation allows a supervirus to leap from one species to another, resulting in large-scale epidemics.
Aches, chills, a stuffed-up nose and vomiting are common. So are lethargy and fatigue.
So are days of complaining to anyone who will listen, force-feedings of chicken soup, and longer and longer pauses from the HR rep when you call in to say you're still too sick to come to work.
Related story: Germ Warfare at Work
"Stomach flu" is usually gastroenteritis, an unrelated viral inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract.
Though we usually recover from flu on our own after a few days of bed rest, flu typically kills as many as half a million people worldwide in any given year.
One of the most notorious flu epidemics, the so-called Spanish flu, swept the globe in the waning days of World War I. It killed 20 million to 100 million people from 1918-1920.
Fortunately, flu shots usually work -- provided you get the shot before you get the flu.
Know what works best of all? Staying away from sick people and washing your hands a lot.
The virus is typically spread in an aerosol -- that is, by sneezing. It also lingers for a while on doorknobs and other objects people touch. You touch the infected doorknob, you touch your mouth or your nose, and before you know it, you're lying on the couch watching daytime TV while the world goes on without you.
Related story: Flu Vaccine Shot 101
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