What is Influenza?

The flu is a contagious respiratory illness that infects the nose, throat and lungs. It can cause mild to severe illness and at times may even lead to death. The best way to prevent the flu is by getting a flu shot each year.

People who have the flu often feel some or all of these signs and symptoms –

  • Fever* or chills
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue (very tired)
  • Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults

* Not everyone with flu will have a fever.

Most experts think that flu viruses spread mainly by droplets. These droplets are spread when people with flu cough, sneeze or talk. They can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby. Less often, a person might also get flu by touching a surface or object that has flu virus on it and then touching their own mouth, eyes or possibly their nose.

You may be able to pass on the flu to someone else when you’re sick and even before you know you are sick. People are able to infect others beginning one day before symptoms start and five to seven days after becoming sick. Some people, especially young children and people with weakened immune systems, might be able to infect others for an even longer time.

The first and most important step in preventing flu is to get a flu vaccination each year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also recommends everyday preventive actions –

  • Staying away from people who are sick
  • Covering coughs and sneezes
  • Frequent handwashing*

These actions will help slow the spread of germs that cause respiratory (nose, throat and lungs) illnesses, like flu. Check with your doctor or nurse about any questions regarding the influenza vaccine and other vaccines that are recommended for you and your child(ren).

*Learn the about hand hygiene and five steps for washing your hands.

Health care provider immunizing baby
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