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Seasonal flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by flu viruses. Approximately 5-20% of U.S. residents get the flu each year.
- Flu season typically starts in the fall and peaks in January or February. The 2012-2013 season flu season has come to a close.
- Getting the flu vaccine is your best protection against the flu.
- Flu-related complications include pneumonia and dehydration.
- Illness from seasonal flu usually lasts one to two weeks.
What is the seasonal flu?
Seasonal flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by flu viruses. It spreads between people and can cause mild to severe illness. In some cases, the flu can lead to death. In the United States, flu season occurs in the fall and winter. Seasonal flu activity usually peaks in January or February, but it can occur as early as October and as late as May.
How does seasonal flu spread?
Most experts believe that you get the flu when a person with the flu coughs, sneezes, or talks and droplets containing their germs land in your mouth or nose. You can also get the flu by touching a surface or object that has the flu virus on it and then touching your mouth, eyes, or nose.
Who is at risk?
Some groups are more likely to experience complications from the seasonal flu, including:
- Seniors (those age 65 and older)
- Children (especially those younger than 2)
- People with chronic health conditions
How can I protect myself from seasonal flu?
The best protection against seasonal flu is the flu vaccine. The 2012-2013 flu season has come to a close. The 2013-2014 flu vaccine will be available to the public in Fall 2013. Health care providers are encouraged to prepare for the 2013-2014 season and order the vaccine in advance.
You should also follow our everyday steps, such as washing your hands and covering your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, to keep yourself healthy.
What are common complications from the seasonal flu?
Complications from the flu include:
- Bacterial pneumonia
- Ear or sinus infections
- Worsening of chronic health conditions
Each year approximately 5-20% of U.S. residents get the flu and more than 200,000 people are hospitalized for flu-related complications.
How long does the illness last and how long am I contagious?
Most people who get the flu feel much better within one or two weeks. Most healthy adults can infect others one day before symptoms develop and five to seven days after symptoms appear. Some people, especially young children and people with weakened immune systems, might be contagious for a longer period.
Is the stomach flu really the flu?
Many people use “stomach flu” to describe illness with nausea, vomiting or diarrhea. Many different viruses, bacteria, or parasites can cause these symptoms. While the flu can sometimes cause vomiting, diarrhea, and nausea—more commonly in children than adults — these problems are rarely the main symptoms of the flu. The flu is a respiratory disease and not a stomach or intestinal disease.
Who monitors seasonal flu activity?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) tracks flu activity in the United States year round and produces a weekly report of flu activity from October through mid-May.