Know What to do About the Flu, visit Flu.gov

For more information and resources on the flu, visit www.flu.gov

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 peaks in January or February.
  • 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.

When is flu season?

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?

Get the flu vaccine as soon as it is available in your area. The 2012-2013 vaccine is now available. You should also follow our everyday steps to keep yourself healthy.

What are common complications from the seasonal flu?

Complications from the flu include:

  • Bacterial pneumonia
  • Ear or sinus infections
  • Dehydration
  • 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?

Most people who get the flu feel much better within one or two weeks.

How long am I contagious?

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.

How many times can a person become infected with the seasonal flu?

You are unlikely to get infected with the same exact strain of flu more than once. It is possible to be infected with flu virus more than once in a season, though, because several different strains of flu virus circulate each year. Exposure to a particular strain of flu virus may help protect you against that strain in the future. But it will not protect you from infection with other flu virus strains.

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.