Key Facts About the Flu
Influenza is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza
Infection with influenza viruses can result in severe illness and
life-threatening complications. An estimated 10 percent to 20
U.S. residents get the flu each year. An average of 114,000 people
hospitalized for flu-related complications, and an average of 36,000
Americans die each year from complications of flu.
Flu symptoms include fever, headache, extreme tiredness, dry cough,
throat, runny or stuffy nose, and muscle aches. Gastro-intestinal
such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, are much more common among
Spread of Flu
Influenza viruses are spread when a person who has the flu coughs,
or speaks and spreads virus into the air, and other people inhale
When these viruses enter the nose, throat, or lungs of a person,
to multiply, causing symptoms of the flu. The viruses can also be
when a person touches a surface with flu viruses on it (for example,
handle) and then touches his or her nose or mouth.
A person who is sick with the flu can spread viruses - that means
contagious. Adults may be contagious from one day before developing
to up to seven days after getting sick. Children can be contagious
longer than seven days.
Vaccination: The single best way to prevent the flu is to get
each fall. In the absence of vaccine, however, there are other ways
protect against flu.
Other Habits for Good Health
The following steps may help prevent the spread of respiratory
- Avoid close contact.
Avoid close contact with people who are sick. When you are sick,
distance from others to protect them from getting sick too.
- Stay home when you are sick. If
possible, stay home from work, school, and
errands when you are sick. You will help prevent others from
catching your illness.
- Cover your mouth and nose.
Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when
coughing or sneezing. It may prevent those around you from getting
- Clean your hands. Washing your hands
often will help protect you from germs.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth
Germs are often spread when a person
touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches
his or her eyes,
nose, or mouth.
Diagnosing the Flu
Tests are available that can determine if you have the flu as long
are tested within the first 2 or 3 days after your symptoms begin.
addition, a doctor's examination may be needed to determine
whether a person
has another infection that is a complication of the flu.
At Special Risk of Complications From Flu
Certain people are at increased risk for serious complications
from the flu.
This group includes people age 65 years and older and people of
any age with
chronic medical conditions. Pregnant women and children between 6
23 months of age also are at increased risk from flu
Complications From Flu
Some of the complications caused by flu include bacterial
dehydration, and worsening of chronic medical conditions, such as
heart failure, asthma, or diabetes. Children may get sinus
problems and ear
What to Do If You Get Sick This Flu Season
If you develop the flu, it is advisable to get plenty of rest,
drink a lot
of liquids, and avoid using alcohol and tobacco. Also, you can
medications to relieve the symptoms of flu (but never give aspirin
children or teenagers who have flu-like symptoms - and
particularly fever -
without first speaking to your doctor.)
If, however, your flu symptoms are unusually severe (for example,
if you are
having trouble breathing), you should consult your health-care
If you are at special risk from complications of flu, you should
your health-care provider when your flu symptoms begin. This
65 years or older, people with chronic medical conditions,
or children . Your doctor may choose to use certain antiviral
drugs to treat
For more information, visit
call the National Immunization Hotline at (800) 232-2522
(800) 232-0233 (español), or (800) 243-7889 (TTY).
Source: U.S. Center for Disease
Control and Prevention (CDC)