What is the flu (influenza)?
The flu, also known as influenza, is caused by germs that pass easily from one person to another. Unlike the common cold, the flu can be severe and even life threatening.
Each year, more than 200,000 people in the United States are hospitalized from medical problems that develop because they have the flu.
What are the symptoms of the flu?
- Fever, chills
- Cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose
- Body aches or headache
- Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, but most people who have flu will not have these symptoms.
Who gets the flu?
Anyone can get the flu. The following people are more likely to get sicker and need additional treatment if infected:
- Children younger than 5 years old, but especially children younger than 2 years old
- Adults 65 years of age and older
- Pregnant women
- American Indians and Alaskan Natives
- People who have medical conditions including, but not limited to, asthma, heart disease, and weakened immune systems due to disease or medication.
How does the flu spread?
People who have the flu spread germs when they cough, sneeze or talk. If these germs get inside another person's body, that person can get sick.
- You do not have to feel sick to spread the flu. People who have the flu can spread germs one day before and up to seven days after becoming sick.
- Flu germs can live on people and surfaces, like door knobs and tables.
What if I get the flu?
- Rest at home while you have symptoms
- Drink plenty of fluids
- Take over-the-counter medicines as needed for symptoms
- Babies, older adults and people with immune system or lung problems, like difficulty breathing, should see a doctor right away.
Follow these three simple rules to protect yourself and others
- Get a flu shot! Vaccination is the best way to protect yourself and those around you from the flu. Everyone six months or older should get a flu shot each year.
- Prevent the spread of germs. Cover your nose and mouth with your elbow when you cough or sneeze; wash your hands often with soap and water; wash or sanitize items you touch when you are sick. Stay at home for at least 24 hours after your fever ends.
- Take antiviral medicine if your doctor prescribes it. There is no cure for the flu, but antiviral medicine can help you feel better, faster. This medicine works best when started within 48 hours of getting sick. Call your doctor if you fever doesn't go away after 24 hours.
For more information, call Denver Public Health at (303) 602-3614.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- Denver Public Health
- National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NIFD)