Influenza – An Ongoing Public Health Threat

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 for serious flu complications. The best way to prevent the flu is by getting vaccinated each year.

Flu viruses are thought to spread mainly from person to person through droplets made when people with flu cough, sneeze, or talk. Flu viruses also may spread when people touch something with flu virus on it and then touch their mouth, eyes, or nose. Many other viruses spread these ways too.

People infected with flu may be able to infect others beginning 1 day before symptoms develop and up to 5-7 days after becoming sick. That means you may be able to spread the flu to someone else before you know you are sick as well as while you are sick. Young children, those who are severely ill, and those who have severely weakened immune systems may be able to infect others for longer than 5-7 days.

In Addition to Vaccine, Everyday Prevention Measures are Necessary:

  • Try to avoid close contact with sick people. 
  • If you or your child gets sick with flu-like illness, CDC recommends that you (or your child) stay home for at least 24 hours after the fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities. The fever should be gone without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.
  • While sick, limit contact with others as much as possible to keep from infecting them. 
  • 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. 
  • If an outbreak of flu or another illness occurs, follow public health advice. This may include information about how to increase distance between people and other measures.

For more information, please visit the CDC’s 2016-2017 Flu Page

Additional Resources

Seasonal Influenza: Flu Basics
What You Should Know for the 2016-2017 Season
Prevention – Flu Vaccine – includes Locator that will help find Flu Clinics near you
Good Health Habits Can Stop Germs

Healthcare Professionals

A Tool Kit for Long Term Care Facilities
Infection Control in Healthcare Facilities
Treatment – Antiviral Drugs