You've got the chills. Your whole body aches and your head feels like it weighs a ton.
Congratulations, you own a raging case of influenza.
While the flu can mimic other respiratory illnesses it is most often accompanied by a fever of 100F or greater, said Ann Garvey, M.D., Iowa deputy state epidemiologist.
Flu symptoms often are displayed by sudden onset and include fever, nausea, vomiting and muscle aches and pains as opposed to cold symptoms which include a runny nose, sneezing and a sore throat. The duration for the flu ranges from 2 to 7 days depending on the severity, said Garvey. The illness may last longer and develop more severe complications for persons who have underlying health conditions, such as the elderly and the very young.
Prevention is the best defense against the flu and getting immunized is the first line of defense, she said.
"If you haven't gotten a flu vaccine, it is not too late to get one," said Garvey. Even if a person has had the flu, a vaccine could help prevent catching another strain.
Other preventative measures include practicing the three C's - Cover coughs and sneezes, clean hands frequently and contain germs by staying home when ill.
"The key is to stay home when you are ill," said Garvey. "It may mean that you will miss the holiday party, but it is important to not expos others."
Washing hands is always a good rule of thumb to fend off the flu, stomach virus or colds, she said.
The current vaccine guards against H3N2, 2009 H1N1 and Influenza B, said Garvey.
Traditionally, health care providers see cases of the flu after the holidays, but this year, it made an early appearance when a unique strain was diagnosed in three Webster and Hamilton County children in late November, reported Garvey.
According to the Iowa Department of Public Health, the strain included components of the human, avian, H1N1 and swine influenza viruses.
Since those three cases were first documented, no additional strains of that particular virus have been found in Iowa, although it has been found in other states, said Garvey.
"It appears the seasonal influenza vaccine which is currently available may offer some protection against this novel strain," said Patricia Quinlisk, M.D., Iowa Department of Public Health medical director
But unfortunately with the flu, there are always enough strains of the virus to go around, Garvey said.
"It is kind of the nature of the flu virus to evolve and mix with other strains," said Garvey.
Even though no new cases of any type of influenza have been identified in Hamilton County since November, Shelby Kroona, administrator of the Hamilton County Health Department in Webster City suggests people be aware and be prepared for the influenza season.
"As of today we have had two confirmed cases in Hamilton County," Kroona said, citing the November cases. "But we are hearing that people have symptoms. Just be prepared."
The new trend in public health education is that when it comes to influenza, it is best to stay home for 24 hours until after the symptoms have subsided.
"Your best bet is to stay home for 24 hours until you are fever-free and symptom-free," she said.
Kroon urged people to get the flu shot which is still available at the Hamilton County Health Department. A limited supply of children's nasal flu vaccine is also available, she said. To check on availability, call 832-9565.
The best cure for the flu is to stay away from others, rest and stay fully hydrated with clear liquids, say the experts.
Seek immediate medical attention if a person is ill for more than three
days or displays rapid breathing, blue skin, rash, loss of appetite or is
not eating, said Kroona.
For more information, visit the Public Health website