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Nurse's Notes: The Flu in Dakar

The flu is going around Dakar and our community. Please read on for more information about the flu. And remember if your child has a fever or exhibits some of the symptoms described below, whether it be due to the flu or another flu-type illness, please give them the opportunity to stay at home so that they can get the rest they need to recover.

Influenza, or "the flu," is a viral infection of the respiratory tract. The flu is often confused with the common cold, but flu symptoms usually are more severe. It's important to treat the flu seriously because it can lead to pneumonia and other kinds of infections. Symptoms usually begin about 2 days after exposure to the virus and can include: fever, chills, headache, muscle aches, dizziness, loss of appetite, tiredness, cough, sore throat, runny nose, nausea or vomiting, weakness, ear pain, and diarrhea.

The flu is caused by the influenza virus, which spreads when infected droplets are coughed or sneezed into the air. The flu is very contagious. People can spread the flu from a day before they feel sick until their symptoms are gone. This is about 1 week for adults, but can be longer for young kids. Anyone can get the flu. The flu can be diagnosed by a laboratory test, but often this isn't necessary. Symptoms alone can give a pretty good indication of the flu, especially if it’s going around. That being said, without testing, you won’t know for sure if it's the flu or another viral infection. But the treatment is generally the same whether there is testing or not. In most cases the flu doesn’t need specific medical treatment, and most otherwise healthy people can recover at home. They should: drink lots of liquids to prevent dehydration, get plenty of sleep and take it easy, and take paracetamol / acetaminophen or ibuprofen (but never aspirin for children or teens) to relieve fever and aches.

Children who are sick should stay home from school until they feel better and have been fever-free for at least 24 hours without the use of a fever-reducing medicine. After 5 days, fever and other symptoms usually stop, but a cough and weakness may continue. All symptoms usually are gone within a week or two. Remember to follow these steps to reduce the likelihood of spreading the flu: wash your hands well and often with soap, especially after using the bathroom, after coughing or sneezing, and before eating or preparing food, never pick up used tissues, don't share cups and eating utensils, stay home from work or school when you're sick with the flu, cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze and then put it in the trash, and if a tissue isn't available, cough or sneeze into your upper arm, not into your hands.

Vaccination is also a great prevention strategy for the flu. Some pharmacies in Dakar carry the flu vaccine. It is recommended that you speak with a doctor if you would like to receive the flu vaccine and check ahead with your pharmacy to be sure it is in stock.

Please see the video below for more important facts about the flu:

Cheers to your health,

Nurse Jen

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