What is influenza (also called flu)?
The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses that infect the nose, throat, and lungs. It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death. Everyone 6 months of age and older should get the flu vaccine every year.
Seasonal flu occurs in the United States most often in the fall and winter and commonly peaks in February and March.
What are the symptoms of the flu?
People with the flu often have fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, fatigue, headache and some people have vomiting or diarrhea, although this is more common in kids than adults.
How does the flu spread?
The flu spreads easily from person to person by coughing and sneezing. Adults can infect others one day before symptoms develop and up to five days after becoming sick. Kids can spread the virus for 10 or more days.
How serious is the flu?
The flu is unpredictable and can be severe, especially for older people, young kids, pregnant women and people with certain health conditions. These groups are at greater risk for serious complications if they get the flu, including:
- Bacterial pneumonia
- Ear infections
- Sinus infections
- Worsening of chronic medical conditions (asthma, congestive heart failure, or diabetes).
Protect yourself and others:
- Get a flu vaccine each year
- Cover your cough or sneeze
- Wash your hands frequently with soap and water
- Stay home and away from others while you or your family members are sick
- If your symptoms are severe, contact your doctor, especially if you are at high risk of developing flu-related complications. Antiviral treatment drugs are a treatment option but they must be prescribed by a doctor.