- Download PDF of fact sheet HERE.
- Source: Public Health, 40 Coxe Avenue, Asheville, NC 28801 ~ 828.250.5000
What is influenza (flu)?
The flu is a respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. It is easily spread and attacks the nose, throat, and lungs. It is more common during colder months, especially October through March.
How does the flu spread?
The flu virus spreads mainly by droplets made when people with the flu cough, sneeze, or talk. These droplets are inhaled by others. A person also may get the flu by touching a surface or object that has the flu virus on it and then touching their own mouth, eyes or nose.
What are the symptoms?
Fever (or feeling feverish/chills)
Runny or stuffy nose
Muscle or body aches
Feeling very tired
Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea
(more common in children than adults) Symptoms usually start 1 to 4 days after someone is exposed to the flu virus.
How long is a person contagious?
Most people with the flu can infect others beginning 1 day before symptoms appear and up to 5 to 7 days after becoming sick. Some people (especially young children and people with weakened immune systems) may be able to infect others for a longer period of time.
How is the flu diagnosed?
It can be hard to know if you have the flu or another type of respiratory illness based only on symptoms. There are lab tests that can be done if your medical provider thinks they are necessary.
How serious is the flu?
Flu is unpredictable, so it varies every year. Some people are at higher risk for severe illness from the flu than others. These include older people, young children, pregnant women, and people with certain chronic health conditions (like asthma, diabetes, heart disease, or weakened immune systems).
How is the flu treated?
Prevention is key, as there is no cure for influenza. The goal for treating the flu is to decrease how bad symptoms become and how long they last. Treatments can include:
Medication to help with aches and fever
Medication for congestion and runny nose
Drinking more liquids
Antiviral medication (best when taken within 48 hours of when symptoms begin)
What if I think I have the flu?
Stay home if you are sick.
Avoid contact with others.
Rest and drink lots of fluids.
If you are in a high-risk group, call your medical provider for advice.
Call your medical provider or go to the
emergency department if you are having severe symptoms like:
o Difficultybreathingorshortnessof breath
o Painorpressureinthechestor abdomen
o Suddendizziness o Confusion
Can the flu be prevented?
The flu can be prevented by following these steps: Get a flu shot every fall when it becomes available.
Cover your cough/sneeze with a tissue. Throw the tissue in the trash afterwards and wash your hands.
Wash your hands often with soap and water. If not available, alcohol-based hand rub may be used.
Stay home if you’re sick! Your fever should be gone for 24 hours without the use of fever- reducing medicine before you return to school, work or other activities outside your home.
Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.