What Everyone Should Know about Flu and the Flu Vaccine
Influenza (flu) Fact Sheet
What is the Flu?
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. Some people, such as older people, young children, and people with certain health conditions, are at high risk for serious flu complications.
Every year in the United States:
• 5% to 20% of the population gets the flu
• On average more than 200,000 people are hospitalized from flu complications
• Over 23,600 people die from the flu
What are the symptoms of the flu?
The flu usually starts suddenly and may include these symptoms:
• Fever or feeling feverish/chills • Muscle or body aches
• Headaches • Cough
• Sore throat • Fatigue
• Some people have vomiting and diarrhea, although this is more common in children
It is important to note that not everyone with flu will have a fever
How is the flu spread?
The flu is spread in droplets released by coughing and sneezing. It usually spreads from person to person, though occasionally people may be infected by touching something with a virus on it and then touching their mouth or nose.
When and for how long is a person able to spread the flu?
People with flu are contagious (able to infect others) beginning one day before getting symptoms. Adults remain contagious up to seven days after getting sick and children can remain contagious for even longer. That means that you can give someone the flu before you know you’re sick as well as when you are sick.
Preventing the Flu
The single best way to prevent the flu is to get a flu vaccination each fall. Everyone 6 months of age and older should get vaccinated against the flu. Vaccinations should begin as soon as the vaccine is available.