Influenza (flu)

Influenza (flu)

Preventing the Flu

The single best way to prevent seasonal flu is to get vaccinated each year, but good health habits like covering your cough and washing your hands often can help stop the spread of germs and prevent respiratory illnesses like the flu. There also are flu antiviral drugs that can be used to treat and prevent the flu.

Good Health Habits Can Help Stop Germs
  1. Avoid close contact
    Avoid close contact with people who are sick. When you are sick, keep your distance from others to protect them from getting sick too.
  2. Stay home when you are sick
    If possible, stay home from work, school, and errands when you are sick. You will help prevent others from catching your illness.
  3. Cover your mouth and nose
    Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. It may prevent those around you from getting sick.
  4. Clean your hands
    Washing your hands often will help protect you from germs.
  5. Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth
    Germs are often spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches his or her eyes, nose, or mouth.
  6. Practice other good health habits
    Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat nutritious food.

If you have the flu, your work is through.

So before you arrive with the stuffy head, make sure you don't have symptoms that should keep you in bed. Share ideas - not viruses - with your co-workers. Keep sick at home.

Influenza (flu) is a serious disease of the nose, throat, and lungs. It can make you sick for a week or longer with coughing, fever, aching, and more. And it can lead to pneumonia.

Who is at high risk of flu complications?
  • People who are 50 years old or older. Even if you are active and in good health, you have a higher risk of complications if you get the flu. Each year about 36,000 people in the U.S. die because of the flu.
  • People with chronic (ongoing) or long-term health problems. You may look and feel healthy, but if you have a condition like diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, or asthma, you are more likely to have complications from the flu. If your immune system is weakened by long-term problems like cancer or HIV/AIDS, you need a flu shot (the flu shot is safe for people with weak immune systems).
  • Women who are pregnant during flu season (typically November through March). Pregnant women are at risk of complications and hospitalization if they get the flu. The influenza vaccine is safe for pregnant women and their babies. Protect yourself and your baby by getting vaccinated.
  • Children under 5 years old. Children under 5 years old have a high risk of emergency room visits and hospitalizations due to flu.

Why get vaccinated?

Influenza ("flu") is a contagious disease!

It is caused by the influenza virus, which spreads from infected persons to the nose or throat of others. Other illnesses can have the same symptoms and are often mistaken for influenza. But only an illness caused by the influenza virus is really influenza.

Anyone can get influenza, but rates of infection are highest among children. For most people, it lasts only a few days. It can cause:
  • fever
  • sore throat
  • chills
  • fatigue
  • cough
  • headache
  • muscle aches

Some people get much sicker. Influenza can lead to pneumonia and can be dangerous for people with heart or breathing conditions. It can cause high fever and seizures in children. On average, 226,000 people are hospitalized every year because of influenza and 36,000 die - mostly elderly.

Influenza vaccine can prevent influenza.

When should I get the influenza vaccine?

Plan to get influenza vaccine in October or November if you can. But getting vaccinated in December, or even later, will still be beneficial in most years. You can get the vaccine as soon as it is available, and for as long as illness is occurring. Influenza illness can occur any time from November through May. Most cases usually occur in January or February.

Most people need one dose of influenza vaccine each year. Children younger than 9 years of age getting influenza vaccine for the first time should get 2 doses. For inactivated vaccine, these doses should be given at least 4 weeks apart.

Influenza vaccine may be given at the same time as other vaccines, including pneumococcal vaccine.

Covering Coughs