General Influenza (Flu) Information

Influenza (the flu) is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death. The best way to prevent the flu is by getting a flu vaccination each year. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) every year in the United States, on average 5% to 20% of the population gets the flu; more than 200,000 people are hospitalized from flu complications, and; about 36,000 people die from flu-related causes. Some people, such as older people, young children, and people with certain health conditions, are at high risk for serious flu complications.

How Flu Spreads
Flu viruses are thought to spread mainly from person to person through coughing or sneezing of people with influenza. Sometimes people may become infected by touching something with flu viruses on it and then touching their mouth or nose. Most healthy adults may be able to infect others beginning 1 day before symptoms develop and up to 5 days after becoming sick. That means that you may be able to pass on the flu to someone else before you know you are sick, as well as while you are sick.

Symptoms of Flu include:

  • fever (usually high)
  • headache
  • extreme tiredness
  • dry cough
  • sore throat
  • runny or stuffy nose
  • muscle aches
  • Stomach symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, also can occur but are more common in children than adults

Vaccination is one of the most effective ways to minimize suffering and death from influenza. CDC recommends a yearly seasonal flu vaccine as the first and most important step in protecting against seasonal influenza. While there are many different flu viruses, the seasonal flu vaccine protects against the three seasonal viruses that research suggests will be most common. Vaccination is especially important for people at high risk of serious flu complications, including young children, pregnant women, people with chronic health conditions like asthma, diabetes or heart and lung disease and people 65 years and older. Seasonal flu vaccine is also important for health care workers, and other people who live with or care for high risk people to prevent giving the flu to those at high risk. Check with your healthcare provider about getting vaccinated.

Note: A seasonal vaccine will not protect you against novel H1N1. A new vaccine against novel H1N1 is being produced and will be available in the coming months as an option for prevention of novel H1N1 infection

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