Infections & Viruses

 

photo of Woman bed with the flu

A virus is an infectious agent that carries diseases while an infection is defined as an illness caused by bacteria or viruses. People with chronic conditions, like asthma, can struggle more with an infection than a person without a chronic condition.

What is COVID-19?

Coronavirus, or COVID-19, is a novel virus that has caused a worldwide pandemic in 2019 – 2020. Symptoms of this virus range from mild to severe, causing many deaths across the world. Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure and include fever, cough and shortness of breath.

The main focus of society throughout this outbreak has been to try and slow the spread of the disease. People have been asked to practice social distancing, and stay at home if they feel sick. People who need to take extra precautions to prevent getting COVID-19 are older adults, people with asthma, heart conditions, diabetes or people who are immunocompromised.

COVID-19 Information Center ⇢

What is Influenza (flu)?

Influenza, often called the “flu”, is an acute, highly contagious, respiratory disease with symptoms affecting the nose, throat and lungs. It is seasonal in nature and often begins with nasal congestion, sneezing and a sore throat. Additional symptoms include a fever over 100.4 F (38 C); aching muscles; chills and sweats; headache; cough, fatigue and weakness.

See: Treating the Flu FAQs

Who should get an influenza vaccine?

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the flu vaccine for everyone older than 6 months. The flu vaccine – available at doctor’s offices, community clinics, pharmacies and some supermarkets – is the best insurance against getting the flu and passing it on to others. People who are at high risk for experiencing complications from the flu include people over the age of 65; people with asthma, diabetes, cancer, heart disease, stroke and HIV/AIDS; as well as pregnant women, young children and children with neurologic conditions.

When should people get an influenza vaccine?

Getting the flu vaccine in September or October is best, but January or February are acceptable times as well, as flu seasons can linger into spring. Other prevention tips: wash your hands often, especially before eating, and teach children to not put their hands in their mouths, nose and eyes; wipe surfaces where viruses may linger; stay away from people who are sick – and stay home if you’re the one who’s ill.

What is pneumonia?

Pneumonia is a bacterial, viral or fungal infection of one or both sides of the lungs that causes the air sacs of the lungs to fill up with fluid. Symptoms can be mild or severe and may include coughing with phlegm, fever, chills, and difficulty breathing.

Pneumonia is a leading cause of serious illness in both children and adults. It’s life-threatening and can lead to hospitalization, taking weeks to recover. Many factors affect how serious pneumonia is, such as the type of germ causing the lung infection, your age, and your overall health. Those at highest risk of serious complications include children under 2 years of age, adults age 65 and over, and people at any age with chronic illnesses and immune deficiencies.

Who should get a pneumonia vaccine?

CDC advises all people with asthma and COPD to get the pneumonia vaccination each year. It’s also recommended for people with recurrent sinusitis or lung infections.

What is bronchitis?

Bronchitis is a condition in which airways in the lungs become inflamed and cause intense coughing, often with mucus. It can be either acute or chronic.

What is acute bronchitis?

Acute bronchitis is typically caused by a viral infection, such as the cold or flu. It tends to go away on its own; most people recover after 1-2 weeks.

What is chronic bronchitis?

Chronic bronchitis is often part of a COPD diagnosis. Symptoms include a cough that lasts for several months and may return the following year. In chronic bronchitis, the lining of the airways stays inflamed, causing it to swell and produce more mucus, making it hard to breathe.

Who gets bronchitis?

People with asthma and allergies, as well as those who smoke cigarettes or are exposed to secondhand smoke, are at greater risk of getting either form of bronchitis.

What is Legionnaires’ disease?

People who are exposed to legionella bacteria are at risk of contracting a serious type of pneumonia called Legionnaires’ disease, a life-threatening condition. Those with asthma, COPD and other respiratory conditions are at increased risk.

How is Legionnaires’ disease contracted?

Legionnaires’ disease is typically caught by breathing droplets of contaminated water. The bacteria grows to dangerous levels in stagnant, warm water and droplets may become airborne in showers and faucets, fountains, cooling towers, hot tubs and other sources.

The bacteria can also be spread through respiratory nebulizers that are not cleaned thoroughly or use contaminated tap water.

How is Legionnaires’ disease prevented?

Prevention is key. Make sure the building you live or work in properly maintains its water systems. At home, set your water heater to 140 degrees Fahrenheit. If you have a hot tub, keep it well maintained. Learn more at PreventLegionnaires.org.

Chart differentiating cold, flu, allergy, or sinusitis
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