Stay Informed About The Flu

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.

When is the flu season in the United States?

In the United States, flu season occurs in the fall and winter. While influenza viruses circulate year-round, most of the time flu activity peaks between December and February, but activity can last as late as May. The overall health impact (e.g., infections, hospitalizations, and deaths) of a flu season varies from season to season.

How does the flu spread?

Person to Person

People with flu can spread it to others up to about 6 feet away. Most experts think that flu viruses spread mainly by droplets made when people with flu cough, sneeze or talk. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs. Less often, a person might get flu by touching a surface or object that has flu virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes.

When Flu Spreads

People with flu are most contagious in the first three to four days after their illness begins. Most healthy adults may be able to infect others beginning 1 day before symptoms develop and up to 5 to 7 days after becoming sick. Children and some people with weakened immune systems may pass the virus for longer than 7 days.

Symptoms can begin about 2 days (but can range from 1 to 4 days) after the virus enters the body. That means that you may be able to pass on the flu to someone else before you know you are sick, as well as while you are sick. Some people can be infected with the flu virus but have no symptoms. During this time, those people may still spread the virus to others.

Am I at high risk for developing serious flu-related complications?

Most people who get sick with flu will have mild illness, will not need medical care or antiviral drugs and will recover in less than two weeks. Some people, however, are more likely to get flu complications that can result in hospitalization and sometimes death. Pneumonia, bronchitis, sinus infections and ear infections are examples of flu-related complications. Flu also can make chronic health problems worse. For example, people with asthma may experience asthma attacks while they have flu and people with chronic congestive heart failure may experience a worsening of this condition triggered by flu. Below are the groups of people who are more likely to get serious flu-related complications if they get sick with flu.

People at High Risk of Developing Flu-Related Complications

  • Children younger than 5, but especially children younger than 2 years old
  • Adults 65 years of age and older
  • Pregnant women (and women up to two weeks postpartum)
  • Residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities
  • Also, American Indians and Alaska Natives seem to be at higher risk of flu complications

People who have medical conditions including:

  • Neurological and neurodevelopmental conditions (including disorders of the brain, spinal cord, peripheral nerve, and muscle such as cerebral palsy, epilepsy [seizure disorders], stroke, intellectual disability, moderate to severe developmental delay, muscular dystrophy, or spinal cord injury)
  • Chronic lung disease (such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease [COPD] and cystic fibrosis)
  • Heart disease (such as congenital heart disease, congestive heart failure and coronary artery disease)
  • Blood disorders (such as sickle cell disease)
  • Endocrine disorders (such as diabetes)
  • Kidney disorders
  • Liver disorders
  • Metabolic disorders (such as inherited metabolic disorders and mitochondrial disorders)
  • Weakened immune system due to disease or medication (such as people with HIV or AIDS, or cancer, or those on chronic steroids)
  • People younger than 19 years of age who are receiving long-term aspirin therapy
  • People with extreme obesity (body mass index [BMI] of 40 or more) Calculate your Body Mass Index or BMI

Flu and Pregnancy


Half of pregnant women protect themselves and their babies against the flu. Time to bump it up!

With only half of pregnant moms getting their flu shot, too many remain unprotected. Flu shots help protect pregnant women and their babies from potentially serious illness during and after pregnancy. During the 2016-2017 flu season, an estimated 50% 1) of pregnant women in the U.S. protected themselves and their babies from flu by getting a flu shot. While this is a significant improvement since the years before the 2009 pandemic, about half of pregnant women, and their babies, still remain unprotected from influenza.

We Can Do Better


All pregnant women need flu shots to protect themselves and their babies.



Illustration: Line graph of influenza vaccination coverage among pregnant women aged 18-49 years 2). The graph displays an increase of vaccination coverage during flu seasons from 2010-2011 flu season to the 2016-2017 flu season, with vaccination coverage rates leveling off to about 50 percent from the 2013-2014 to 2015-2016 flu seasons.


If you’re pregnant, a flu shot:

  • is recommended at any time during pregnancy
  • can reduce your risk of getting sick from flu
  • can protect your baby from flu for several months after birth.

Pregnant women also need a whooping cough (Tdap) shot. Talk to your doctor.

Take 3 Actions To Stop The Flu

Get yourself and your family vaccinated!

A yearly flu vaccine is the first and most important step in protecting against flu viruses. Everyone 6 months or older should get an annual flu vaccine by the end of October, if possible, or as soon as possible after October.

Flu vaccines are offered in many locations, including doctor’s offices, clinics, health departments, pharmacies and college health centers, as well as by many employers, and even in some schools.

Avoid

Avoid close contact with sick people, avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth, cover your coughs and sneezes, wash your hands often (with soap and water), and clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with flu viruses. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol based hand sanitizer.

If you become sick, limit contact with others as much as possible. Remember to cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, and throw tissues in the trash after you use them. Stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities. (Your fever should be gone for 24 hours without the use of a fever-reducing medicine before resuming normal activities.)

Take Antiviral Drugs If Your Doctor Prescribes Them!

If you get the flu, antiviral drugs can be used to treat flu illness. Antiviral drugs can make illness milder and shorten the time you are sick. They also can prevent serious flu complications, like pneumonia.

CDC recommends that antiviral drugs be used early to treat people who are very sick with the flu (for example, people who are in the hospital) and people who are sick with the flu and are at high risk of serious flu complications, either because of their age or because they have a high risk medical condition.

Learn about Who Needs A Flu Vaccine.

Information from www.cdc.gov/fightflu

2)
Sources: 2007-2010 BRFSS, 2010-11-2016-17 Internet Panel Survey.