Seasonal Flu

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What Is Influenza?

Seasonal influenza, commonly called "the flu," is a contagious disease caused by influenza viruses, which infect the respiratory tract (i.e., the nose, throat, lungs). Unlike many other viral respiratory infections, such as the common cold, the flu can cause severe illness and life-threatening complications in many people

What Are The Symptoms of the Flu?

Influenza is a respiratory illness. Symptoms of the flu include:
  • fever
  • cough
  • sore throat
  • runny or stuffy nose
  • body aches
  • headache
  • chills
  • fatigue
Some people may also have vomiting and diarrhea.

How Does The Flu Spread?

Respiratory droplets are
propelled up to 3 feet
The main way that influenza viruses are thought to spread is from person to person in respiratory droplets of coughs and sneezes. This can happen when droplets from a cough or sneeze of an infected person are propelled (generally up to 3 feet) through the air and deposited on the mouth or nose of people nearby. The viruses also can spread when a person touches respiratory droplets on another person or an object and then touches their own mouth or nose (or someone else’s mouth or nose) before washing their hands.

How Long Is Someone Considered "Contagious"?

The period when an infected person is contagious depends on the age and health of the person. Studies show that most healthy adults may be able to infect others from 1 day prior to becoming sick and for 5-7 days after they first develop symptoms. Some young children and people with weakened immune systems may be contagious for longer than a week. The time from when a person is exposed to flu virus to when symptoms begin is about one to four days, with an average of about two days.

When Is Flu Season?

In the United States, the peak of flu season has occurred anywhere from late November through March. The overall health impact (e.g., infections, hospitalizations, and deaths) of a flu season varies from year to year.

What Is The Difference Between "Seasonal" and "H1N1" Flu?

The 'flu' appears from year to year in different forms or "strains". H1N1 is one of these strains. The difference with H1N1 is that it is a 'new' strain of influenza not seen for many years and therefore no one has any natural immunity to it. The H1N1 strain has the potential to cause more illness or more severe illness than the seasonal strain. H1N1 has already demonstrated the ability to spread quickly and globally, quickly creating a 'pandemic' which is the term used to indicate the spread of a disease from continent to continent. Since the seasonal flu and H1N1 flu are indeed different strains of influenze it is necessary to receive separate vaccines specifically engineered for each virus in order to protect yourself from influenza.

How San I Help Prevent Influenza?

Sneeze Into Your Arm
  • Vaccinate - This is the single best way to help prevent the flu.
  • Wash Your Hands - Washing your hands OFTEN will help protect you from not only influenza, but other germs as well.
  • Avoid Touching Your Eyes, Nose, or Mouth - This includes licking your fingers to turn pages of paper, and rubbing your eyes. Germs are often spread when a person soutches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches their eyes, nose, or mouth.
  • Cover Your Mouth and Nose - Cough or sneeze into your shirt sleeve or cover your mouth and nose with a tissue. It may prevent those around you from getting sick.
  • Avoid Close Contact - Avoid close contact with people who are sick. Keep your distance from others when you are sick to protect them from getting sick as well.
  • Stay Home When You Are Sick - If possible, stay home from work, school and errands when you are sick.
  • Practice Other Good Health Habits - Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids and eat nutritious foods.

    Should I Get Vaccinated?

    The best way to prevent seasonal flu is by getting a seasonal flu vaccination each year. In the United States, on average 5% to 20% of the population gets the flu. More than 200,000 people are hospitalized from seasonal flu-related complications and about 36,000 people die from seasonal flu-related causes. Some people, such as older people, young children, pregnant women, and people with certain health conditions, are at high risk for serious flu complications.

    What About "Thimerosol"? Is It Safe?

    Thimerosal is a very effective preservative that has been used since the 1930s to prevent contamination in some multi-dose vials of vaccines. There is no convincing evidence of harm caused by the low doses of thimerosal in vaccines, except for minor reactions like redness and swelling at the injection site. However, in July 1999 the Public Health Service (PHS) agencies, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), and vaccine manufacturers agreed that thimerosal should be reduced or eliminated in vaccines as a precautionary measure. For more information concerning thimerosol please visit the CDC's Thimerosal web page.

    Should I Seek Medical Treatment?

    The American College of Emergency Physicians has issued guidelines on when to see professional medical attention for the flu. Keep in mind these are guidelines. While it is usually not necessary to go to the Emergency Room for the flu, symptoms such as difficulty breathing, chest pain, blue lips, severe vomiting, confusion, seizures, etc. can indicate life threatening medical conditions which require immediate treatment. If possible, consult your family physician first to see what he/she recommends.

    Where Can I Find More Information?

    For more information regarding influenza please visit the Centers for Disease Control influenza web page