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What is Influenza (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.

What are the symptoms of Influenza (flu)?

The flu is different from a cold. The flu usually comes on suddenly. People who have the flu often feel some or all of these symptoms:

  • Fever* or feeling feverish/chills
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue (tiredness)
  • Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults.

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

Emergency warning signs in children that need urgent medical attention include:

  • Fast breathing or trouble breathing
  • Bluish skin color (for fair tones) and grayish skin color (for darker tones)
  • Not drinking enough fluids
  • Not waking up or not interacting
  • Being so irritable that the child does not want to be held
  • Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough
  • Fever with a rash

Emergency warning signs in adults that need urgent medical attention include:

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
  • Sudden dizziness or confusion
  • Severe or persistent vomiting
  • Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough

How can you prevent Influenza (flu)?

The CDC recommends a yearly flu vaccine as the first and most important step in protecting against flu viruses.While there are many different flu viruses, a flu vaccine protects against the viruses that research suggests will be most common. Flu vaccination can reduce flu illnesses, doctors’ visits, and missed work and school due to flu, as well as prevent flu-related hospitalizations.
Everyone 6 months of age and older should get a flu vaccine every year before flu activity begins in their community. CDC recommends getting vaccinated by the end of October, if possible.

In addition to getting an annual flu vaccine the following preventive actions can help stop the spread of germs.

  • Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
  • While sick, limit contact with others as much as possible to keep from infecting them.
  • If you are sick with flu-like illness, CDC recommends that you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities.
  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Germs spread this way.
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs like the flu.

Where can you get flu vaccine (flu shot)?

Flu vaccines are available through your primary care provider and at most pharmacies. Flu and other vaccines are required to be covered by your health insurance without charging a copayment or coinsurance. But, be sure to check with your insurance company to find out if you must go to a specific facility to receive the vaccine. Some insurance plans only cover vaccines given by your doctor or at a limited set of locations.

To find out where you can get flu vaccine (flu shot) type your zip code in to the Flu Vaccine Finder below:

The Cecil County Health Department provides flu shots, free of charge for any Cecil County K-5 student (including home-schooled) each fall at flu vaccination clinics.  Click here for a list of vaccination clinics for fall 2017.

For more information about Influenza (flu) visit https://www.cdc.gov/flu/index.htm.