Influenza Q&A

If you are experiencing any flu-like symptoms please fill out the online Flu Symptom Questionnaire

Several sources were referenced to create the following information including the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the Pennsylvania Department of Health, The World Health Organization, and The Pan American Health Organization.  

What is Influenza (Also Called Flu)?

The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death. The best way to prevent the flu is by getting a flu vaccine each year.

Symptoms of Flu
People who have the flu often feel some or all of these symptoms:

  • *fever (or feeling feverish/chills)
  • cough
  • sore throat
  • runny or stuffy nose
  • muscle or body aches
  • headaches
  • fatigue (very tired)
  • Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults.
*It’s important to note that not everyone with flu will have a fever.

How Flu Spreads
Most experts believe that flu viruses spread mainly by droplets made when people with flu cough, sneeze, or talk. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby. Less often, a person might also get flu by touching a surface or object that has flu virus on it and then touching their own mouth, eyes, or nose.

Period of Contagiousness
You may be able to pass on the flu to someone else before you know you are sick, as well as while you are sick. Most healthy adults may be able to infect others beginning one day before symptoms develop and up to 5 to 7 days after becoming sick. Some people, especially children and people with weakened immune systems, might be able to infect others for an even longer time.

Preventing Seasonal Flu

  • The single best way to prevent the flu is to get a flu vaccine each season. The seasonal flu vaccine protects against the influenza viruses that research suggests will be most common for the year.
  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth. Germs spread this way.
  • Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
  • If you are sick with flu–like illness, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities. (Your fever should be gone without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.)
  • While sick, limit contact with others as much as possible to keep from infecting them.

Keep up Your Resistance

  • Eat a well-balanced diet
  • Get plenty of sleep
  • Avoid stress—it lowers your resistance
  • Exercise regularly
  • Don't smoke—it damages air passages making them more vulnerable to the virus
  • Keep indoor humidity up—low humidity dries out nasal passages.

When Should I Seek Medical Help?

  • If you have a chronic medical condition, it is important that you see doctor at the earliest signs of symptoms;
  • If you have a very high fever >101 degrees
  • If your cough produces sputum (phlegm) and/or is keeping you up at night despite taking medication
  • Shortness of breath or chest tightness/pain
  • Anti-viral medications are recommended for hospitalized patients with confirmed, probable, or suspected novel influenza (H1N1) and persons who have underlying medical conditions or are at risk for seasonal influenza complications

Information and Resources on the Web