Influenza (or “the flu”) is a viral respiratory infection of the nose, throat, and lungs. Up to 20 percent of the population is infected with the flu each year, and thousands of people are hospitalized. These facts will help you plan ahead for flu season:
- Respiratory flu is highly contagious. Symptoms, which typically begin within one to four days of infection, include fever, chills, cough, sore throat, headache, body aches, and fatigue. Some people experience vomiting or diarrhea as well. Individuals with a chronic health condition may find that the symptoms of their condition will worsen when they have the flu.
- A person with the flu could be contagious for up to a full day before onset of symptoms and for five to seven days after they appear. Health experts recommend that someone with the flu stay home until their fever has been gone for 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medications.
- An annual flu shot is the best way to prevent or minimize the effects of the flu. This year’s flu vaccine is now available at your local pharmacy or health care provider.
- The flu is primarily spread through human contact. To protect yourself and others from possible infection:
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth, especially if you haven’t been able to wash your hands recently.
- Frequently clean surfaces with a bleach-based solution.
- Wash your hands with soap and hot water (or use hand sanitizer) often, and especially after contact with other people or shared physical objects (such as a gas pump).
- Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw away the tissue afterwards.
- If you are sick, isolate from others as much as possible until you are no longer contagious.