flu shot

Each year, the dreaded flu puts more than 200,000 Americans in the hospital. Although the flu can linger and make for a very unpleasant period that can last for days or even weeks on end, some people bounce back faster than others.

A number of factors impact how people react to the flu, although different strains of flu crop up every year. Older adults, pregnant women, very young children, and people with a compromised immune system due to an existing medical condition all play a role in how a person reacts to the flu. Symptoms seem to spread like wildfire, and range from mild to life-threatening. Symptoms of the flu include:

But did you know there are three types of influenza viruses? The flu is divided into types A, B, and C.

Type A Flu Virus

The first type of virus is generally responsible for large flu epidemics. Birds like wild ducks, geese, swans, and gulls are natural hosts, and the virus can affect both humans and animals. Type A viruses are divided into subtypes based on two proteins, HA and NA.

Avian influenza, aka bird flu or H5N1, is a type A flu virus that is spread from wild birds to poultry birds to humans by consumption of the infected birds. More recently, there have been hundreds of cases of avian flu in humans, causing great concerns because there is no immunity to it and anyone could be at risk.

In 2009, the H1N1 virus spread so quickly that it caused a flu pandemic. Also known as swine flu, this type of flu is extremely contagious. However, H1N1 is one of the viruses protected by the flu shot.

Type B Flu Virus

There are similarities between type A and type B viruses. They both cause the seasonal flu and can be avoided by the flu shot. However, type B flu symptoms are usually less severe than type A and the virus is not as common. Also, type B flu can only be spread through human to human contact.

Type C Flu Virus

Type C flu has the mildest symptoms of the three types of viruses. Like type B, it can only be spread through human to human contact. Also, the third type of flu is not responsible for flu epidemics.

Flu season typically begins in September and lasts through the month of February. Plan ahead and lessen your risk by getting a flu shot. Flu shots are available at all UPMC Urgent Care centers. Visit the UPMC Urgent Care website to find a location near you to get your flu shot today.