What You Can Do to Avoid the Flu

Fever, headache, fatigue, dry cough, sore throat, stuffy nose, nausea: If these symptoms hit, you may have been bitten by the flu bug.

Who is Most Vulnerable?

People over age 65 comprised about 70% to 85% of all cases of flu in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Children younger than 5 also are at high risk.

An Epidemic Every Year

Flu season occurs in the fall and winter, peaking between late November and early March, and it's an epidemic every year. The makeup of flu viruses can change from year to year, making it difficult to predict. Flu spreads through droplets when people sneeze or cough, and on surfaces. People are contagious one day before symptoms appear and up to a week after. When you don't feel well, it's best to take care of yourself and co-workers by staying home. And don't go back to work (or school) for at least 24 hours after a fever is gone.

You Can Stay Healthy

  • CDC recommends everyone older than 6 months get an annual flu vaccine as soon as the vaccine becomes available; October is the ideal time to get vaccinated, but it's never too late
  • If you don't like needles, ask your doctor if a nasal flu spray is available
  • Avoid being around sick people if possible
  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water, or use hand sanitizer
  • Cover your mouth when coughing or sneezing, preferably with the inside of your arm rather than your hand
  • Avoid touching your face
  • Disinfect surfaces that may be contaminated

Death Rate From Flu is Hard to Calculate

It is difficult to calculate the number of flu deaths annually, according to the CDC. States are not required to report flu deaths, not everyone who dies with flu symptoms is tested for flu, and the virus can cause death when other health conditions are present. About 5% to 20% of people in the U.S. get the flu each year, and an average of 200,000 people are hospitalized for it annually. Flu-related deaths range from about 12,000 to 56,000 a year, depending on the severity of the outbreak. 

Keep yourself and others safer by getting a flu shot. Vaccines do not give people the flu. For more information about how flu vaccines work, visit the CDC website. To see a weekly report on flu activity across the U.S., check out FluView.

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