Understanding Seasonal Influenza

What is the flu?
Influenza, often called the flu, is a highly contagious viral disease. Flu viruses infect the nose, throat and lungs. The flu is the sixth leading cause of death among American adults. Each year, an average of 226,000 people are hospitalized and 36,000 people die from the flu.

What are the symptoms of the flu?
The flu will typically last seven to 10 days and leaves a person feeling weak and fatigued. Flu symptoms tend to develop very quickly (a few hours) and typically include:
  • fever
  • headache
  • extreme tiredness
  • dry cough
  • sore throat
  • muscle aches
  • runny or stuffy nose 

How is the flu spread?
When people come into contact with the flu virus, they may develop the flu. Often, the flu virus is spread when a person who has the virus coughs or sneezes into the air or onto a surface. When a person breathes in the virus or touches his or her eyes, nose or mouth after touching the virus, he or she may contract the flu.

How can I avoid the flu?
There are several ways to avoid contracting the flu: 
  • Get a flu shot every year.
  • Wash your hands often with hot, soapy water. Use hand sanitizer when you cannot wash your hands.
  • Cough and sneeze into a tissue or the bend of your elbow. Do not cough or sneeze into your hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
Who is at risk for serious complications from the flu?
Anyone can get the flu, but some people are more likely to have flu-related complications, including:
  • people 65-years-old and older
  • people who have chronic medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes or heart disease
  • women who are pregnant
  • young children

When should I contact my healthcare provider?
Contact your healthcare provider within 24 hours of experiencing flu-like symptoms. This will allow your provider to prescribe an anti-viral medication. 

What if I am already sick?
If you are sick, take precautions to ensure that you recover and do not infect the people around you. Some precautions include:
  • Stay home from work or school.
  • Contact your healthcare provider if you have difficulty breathing or if your fever or cough does not go away.
  • Follow your healthcare provider's advice.

For more information, or to schedule a flu vaccination clinic for your workplace, community group or housing association, contact Amy O'Rourke:
Email Amy
(312) 628-0217

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