- Policies and Training
- Hand Hygiene
- Seasonal Influenza 2014-15
- Healthcare-Associated Infections
- Current Hot Topics
- Important Links
- Professional Organizations
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. The best way to prevent the flu is by getting a flu vaccine each year.
What are signs and symptoms of the flu?
- Fever or feeling feverish/chills
- Sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Muscle or body aches
- Fatigue (feeling very tired)
- Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults
How does the flu spread?
Most experts believe that flu viruses spread mostly by droplets made when people with flu cough, sneeze, or talk. These droplets 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.
What is the period of contagiousness?
You may be able to pass on the flu to someone else before you even know you are sick, and also when you are sick. Most healthy adults may be able to infect others beginning 1 day before symptoms develop and up to 5-7 days after becoming sick. Some people, especially young children and people with weakened immune systems, may be able to infect others for a longer time period.
When will flu activity begin and when will it peak?
The timing of the flu is unpredictable and varies from season to season. Flu activity most commonly peaks in the US in January-February. Seasonal flu activity can begin in October and continue to occur as late as May.
What should I do to prepare for the flu season?
CDC recommends a yearly flu vaccine for everyone over the age of 6 months. This is the first and most important step in protecting against this disease. The seasonal flu vaccine is designed to protect against the top three or four flu viruses that research indicates will cause the most illness during flu season. People should ideally be vaccinated by October to ensure that as many as people as possible are protected before flu season begins.
In addition to getting the vaccination, you can take everyday preventive steps like staying away from sick people and washing your hands to reduce the spread of germs. If you do happen to get sick, stay home from work or school to prevent spreading flu to others.
When will flu vaccine become available and where can I get it?
Timing of vaccine availability depends on when production is completed. Shipments may begin as early as July or August and continue throughout September and October until all of the vaccine is distributed.
Flu vaccines are offered by many doctor's offices, clinics, health departments, pharmacies, and college health centers, as well as by many employers and some schools.
Visit the HealthMap Vaccine Finder to locate where you can get a flu vaccine.
For more information on seasonal influenza, please visit CDC Seasonal Influenza.
Content source: Center for Disease Control and Prevention.