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Facts About...


What is it?

  • Influenza (“the flu”) is a respiratory illness caused by a virus that affects the nose, throat, and lungs.
  • It can lead to severe illness and complications which may result in hospitalization or death.
  • Most people who get the flu recover within 10 days.
  • Some people can become very ill and need medical attention at a doctor's office or hospital.
  • People with underlying health conditions, pregnant women, young children, and the elderly are at greater risk for flu complications.

Influenza is a reportable disease and must be reported to the Health Department.

How is it spread?

  • The flu spreads through coughing, sneezing and direct contact with hands, surfaces, or items that have been in contact with the flu virus.
  • A person can spread the flu virus before developing symptoms and up to about 5 days after symptoms develop. Children and people with weakened immune systems may be infectious for longer.

What do I look for?

  • People of any age can get the flu and symptoms of the flu can vary from person to person.
  • Common symptoms may include fever, headache, chills, cough, loss of appetite, muscle aches, fatigue, runny nose, sneezing, watery eyes, and sore throat.
  • Nausea, vomiting and diarrhea can also be symptoms of the flu, especially in children.

How is it treated?

  • There are medications called antivirals, which can be used for early treatment of the flu. For more information, talk to your health care provider.
  • Antibiotics have no effect against the flu virus.
    (For more information, see Facts About... Caring for Someone with the Flu)

How can I protect myself?

  • Clean your hands often using soap and water or use an alcohol based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your face.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your upper sleeve when you cough or sneeze.
  • Keep common surfaces and items clean and disinfected.
  • Get your flu vaccine early each year. It’s the best way to prevent getting and spreading the flu.
    (see Facts About... Seasonal Influenza Vaccines)

October 3, 2017