You are here

Flu facts

Flu facts

These flu Q&As are provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

What is the flu?

Influenza -- the flu -- is a contagious illness that infects the nose, throat and lungs. It is caused by various strains of influenza viruses. It can cause mild to severe illness, sometimes leading to hospitalization or death.

Especially at risk are older people, young children, pregnant women and people with chronic conditions including weakened immune systems, and heart and lung disease.

The best way to prevent the flu is by getting vaccinated each year. This year’s vaccination is designed to protect against influenza A & B. Everyone who is at least 6 months of age should get a flu vaccine this season. While there are several types of vaccines available, it is best to talk to your doctor or nurse about the best option for you and your family.

What are signs and symptoms of the flu?

People with the flu may feel some or all of these signs and symptoms:
  • Fever or feeling feverish/chills (not always present with the flu)
  • 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.

Get immediate medical attention when you see these warning signs:

  • Your child is breathing rapidly or is having trouble breathing
  • Your child’s skin color is bluish or gray (call 9-1-1 immediately)
  • Your child is not drinking enough fluids
  • Your child has severe or persistent vomiting
  • Your child is not waking up or not interacting
  • Your child is so irritable that he or she does not want to be held
  • Your child’s flu-like symptoms improve, but then return with fever and worse cough

How does flu spread?

The flu viruses spread from one person to another through droplets formed when people with the flu cough, sneeze or talk; or by touching a surface or object with the flu virus on it. If you are infected, you may be able to infect others a day before symptoms develop and up to 5 to 7 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 flu also can lead to complications, including bacterial pneumonia, ear infections, sinus infections, dehydration, and worsening of chronic medical conditions, such as congestive heart failure, asthma, or diabetes.

How can I prevent the spread of flu?

If you or someone in your family has any symptom of the flu, take steps to avoid the spread of illness.

  • Do not visit family or friends in the hospital or who are at risk for catching the flu or other contagious illness.
  • Stay away from sick people and stay home if you’re sick.
  • Wash hands often with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Do not share towels, eating utensils, and dishes without first washing them thoroughly,
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces at home, work and school