What to Know About: Influenza (Flu)

don’t Let ConfluSion Keep You from Protecting yourself from the FLu.

More than 80,000 Americans died of the flu in the winter of 2017-2018, the highest number in over a decade.

90 percent of those deaths were in people over age 65, the flu also killed 180 young children and teenagers, more than in any other year since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention began using its current surveillance methods.

What is the Flu?

Influenza (flu) is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. It can cause mild to severe illness. Serious outcomes of flu infection can result in hospitalization or death. Some people, such as older people, young children, and people with certain health conditions, are at high risk of serious flu complications.

The best way to prevent flu is by getting vaccinated each year.

 

What are Symptoms of the Flu?

Flu can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death. Flu is different from a cold. Flu usually comes on suddenly. People who have flu often feel some or all of these symptoms:

  • fever*
  • cough
  • sore throat
  • runny or stuffy nose
  • body aches and headache
  • chills
  • fatigue

*It’s important to note that not everyone with flu will have a fever.

The time from when a person is exposed and infected with flu to when symptoms begin is about 2 days but can range from about 1 to 4 days.

 

Who is at the Highest Risk from Flu

Anyone can get flu (even healthy people), and serious problems related to flu can happen at any age, but some people are at high risk of developing serious flu-related complications if they get sick. This includes people 65 years and older, people of any age with certain chronic medical conditions (such as asthma, diabetes, or heart disease), pregnant women, and children younger than 5 years.

 

Common questions

Can the flu be treated?
Yes. There are prescription medications called “antiviral drugs” that can be used to treat flu illness.

What should I do if I think I have the flu?

If you get the flu, antiviral drugs are a treatment option. Check with your doctor promptly if you are at high risk of serious flu complications and you develop flu symptoms.

What are antiviral drugs?

Antiviral drugs are prescription medicines (pills, liquid, an inhaled powder, or an intravenous solution) that fight against the flu virus in your body. Antiviral drugs are not sold over-the-counter. You can only get them if you have a prescription from your doctor or health care provider. Antiviral drugs are different from antibiotics, which fight against bacterial infections.

Will the United States have a flu epidemic?

The United States experiences annual epidemics of seasonal flu. This time of year is called “flu season.” In the United States, flu viruses are most common during the fall and winter months. Influenza activity often begins to increase in October and November. Most of the time flu activity peaks between December and February, and it can last as late as May. CDC monitors certain key flu indicators (for example, outpatient visits of influenza-like illness (ILI), the results of laboratory testing and reports of flu hospitalizations and deaths). When these indicators rise and remain elevated for a number of consecutive weeks, “flu season” is said to have begun. Usually ILI increases first, followed by an increase in flu-associated hospitalizations, which is then followed by increases in flu-associated deaths.

For the most current influenza surveillance information, please see FluView at Weekly U.S. Influenza Surveillance Report.

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CDC’s seasonal flu vaccination campaign materials are available to assist the public in communicating about the importance of vaccination. This digital toolkit includes details on events/activities, sample social media and newsletter content, graphics, web assets, and media prep material. This material is downloadable, shareable, and some of the material is customizable.

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