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Flu (Influenza)

National Influenza Vaccination Week is a critical opportunity to remind everyone 6 months and older that there’s still time to protect themselves and their loved ones from flu this flu season by getting their annual flu vaccine if they have not already.

What is the flu?

The Flu (influenza) is an infection of the nose, throat and lungs, which are part of the respiratory system. Influenza is commonly called the flu, but it's not the same as stomach "flu" viruses that cause diarrhea and vomiting.

Most people with the flu get better on their own. But sometimes, influenza and its complications can be deadly. People at higher risk of developing flu complications include:

  • Young children under age 2

  • Adults older than age 65

  • Residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities

  • People who are pregnant or plan to be pregnant during flu season

  • People with weakened immune systems

  • American Indians or Alaska Natives

  • People who have chronic illnesses, such as asthma, heart disease, kidney disease, liver disease and diabetes

  • People with a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or higher

Although the annual influenza vaccine isn't 100% effective, it reduces the chances of having severe complications from infections

How is the Flu Treated?

If you get sick with flu, influenza antiviral drugs may be a treatment option. Antiviral drugs work best when started early, such as one to two days after your flu symptoms begin.

Check with your doctor promptly if you are at higher risk of serious flu complications and you get flu symptoms. People at higher risk of flu complications include young children, adults 65 years of age and older, pregnant people, and people with certain medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes and heart disease.

When treatment is started within 1-2 days after flu symptoms begin, influenza antiviral drugs can lessen symptoms and shorten the time you are sick by 1 or 2 days. They might also prevent some flu complications, like pneumonia. For people at higher risk of serious flu complications, treatment with influenza antiviral drugs can mean the difference between milder or more serious illness possibly resulting in a hospital stay.

Is It a Cold, the Flu Or Covid?

Influenza Quick Facts

  • The flu is more dangerous for older adults

  • The flu usually starts to spread in October and peaks between December and February.

  • It takes at least two weeks for the flu vaccine to start working

  • If you catch the flu, stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone to lessen your chance of infecting others

Did You Know there are several types of Influenza?

  • Influenza A viruses are further classified into subtypes according to the combinations of the hemagglutinin (HA) and the neuraminidase (NA), the proteins on the surface of the virus. Currently circulating in humans are subtype A(H1N1) and A(H3N2) influenza viruses. The A(H1N1) is also written as A(H1N1)pdm09 as it caused the pandemic in 2009 and subsequently replaced the seasonal influenza A(H1N1) virus which had circulated prior to 2009. Only influenza type A viruses are known to have caused pandemics.

  • Influenza B viruses are not classified into subtypes, but can be broken down into lineages. Currently circulating influenza type B viruses belong to either B/Yamagata or B/Victoria lineage.

  • Influenza C virus is detected less frequently and usually causes mild infections, thus does not present public health importance.

  • Influenza D viruses primarily affect cattle and are not known to infect or cause illness in people.

Influenza Risk Factors

You are more at risk for flu and its complications if you:

  • Are age 65 or older

  • Have certain medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease

  • Have heart disease or have had a stroke

  • Live in a nursing home or other long-term care facility

Flu Resources

Flu Global Overview (WHO)

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