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Influenza (flu) is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. For some people, flu is a mild illness that leads to missed time from family, work and school. For others, it can lead to hospitalization and even death.

Every year in the United States, more than 200,000 people are hospitalized from flu complications and tens of thousands die, including young children. For information on this year’s season



Flu symptoms can last anywhere from 5 to 10 days, and include some or all of the following:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Stuffy or runny nose
  • Body aches
  • Headache
  • Chills
  • Fatigue
  • Vomiting and/or diarrhea (more common in children than adults)


Though the flu can make people feel pretty lousy, the vast majority of otherwise healthy people will recover from the flu at home with self-care:

  • Rest
  • Drink plenty of fluids
  • Treat fever with acetaminophen or ibuprofen (do not give aspirin to children under 18 years of age)
  • Stay home until at least 24 hours after you are free of a fever without taking fever-reducing medications.

When to Seek Medical Treatment

Use this decision chart to help decide when to seek medical care:

How influenza is spread

Flu viruses are spread mainly from person to person by coughing, sneezing, talking or singing. Sometimes people can become infected by touching something with flu viruses on it and then touching their mouth or nose. Getting vaccinated, covering coughs and sneezes, and handwashing are good preventative measures.

Flu vaccination

Anyone, even healthy people can get the flu. The best way to prevent the flu is by getting vaccinated. The CDC recommends flu shots for everyone 6 months of age and older.

Where to Get Vaccinated

  • Your doctor or clinic
  • Pharmacies
  • Community Health Clinics

People at Risk for Flu Complications

The following groups of people are more likely to experience serious complications from the flu that can lead to hospitalization or even death. If you have one of these conditions it is especially important to get vaccinated against the flu:

  • People with chronic medical conditions like asthma, diabetes and heart disease
  • Age 65 and older
  • Pregnant women

Vaccine safety

Influenza vaccines have a very good safety track record. Over the years, Americans have received hundreds of millions of doses of seasonal flu vaccine. The discomfort and possible serious complications from flu are far greater than any risks that come from the vaccine.

More about vaccine safety»

Everyday prevention

To help reduce your risk of getting and spreading the flu, use these everyday disease prevention practices:

  • Wash your hands vigorously and frequently with soap and water. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers are OK if soap and water are not available.
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes. Use disposable tissue or your sleeve, not your hands.
  • Stay home from work, school or other places where there are a lot of people if you are sick.


World Health Organization

Oregon Flu Hotline


Adapted from : Multnomah County Public Health (2016).  Influenza. Retrieved from: https://multco.us/health/diseases-and-conditions/influenza
Images: Influenza.blogspot ; Edtunes

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