Influenza, also known as the flu, is a contagious disease that is caused by the influenza virus. It attacks the respiratory tract in humans (nose, throat, and lungs). Influenza usually occurs during the months of November through April.
Influenza types A or B viruses cause epidemics of disease almost every winter. In the United States , these winter influenza epidemics can cause illness in 10% to 20% of people and are associated with an average of 36,000 deaths and 200,000 hospitalizations per year.
Influenza usually comes on suddenly and may include these symptoms:
Influenza is spread, or transmitted, when a person who has the flu coughs, sneezes, or speaks and sends flu virus into the air, and other people inhale the virus. The virus enters the nose, throat, or lungs of a person and begins to multiply, causing symptoms of influenza. A person with influenza is contagious starting the day before symptoms start and can continue for up to 1 week.
The single best way to protect against the flu is to get vaccinated each year. You can also protect yourself from getting the flu by practicing good hygiene, including frequent hand washing with soap and water; and by covering your nose and mouth (preferably with a tissue) when you cough or sneeze. Drinking plenty of fluids, eating a well-balanced diet and getting plenty of rest will keep your immune system healthy. If you are sick, stay home from work or school to avoid passing anything on to others.
Influenza is caused by a virus, therefore, antibiotics are ineffective. Treatment is aimed at the relief of symptoms. If you have the flu, rest, drink plenty of liquids and take medication to relieve the symptoms of flu such as Tylenol, Ibuprofen, cough medication and/or decongestants.