Influenza ("flu") is a contagious disease that spreads around the United States every winter, usually between October and May. Flu is caused by the influenza virus, and can be spread by coughing, sneezing, and close contact.
Anyone can get flu, but the risk of getting flu is highest among children. Symptoms come on suddenly and may last several days. They can include:
• sore throat
• muscle aches
• runny or stuffy nose
Flu can make some people much sicker than others. These people include young children, people 65 and older, pregnant women, and people with certain health conditions - such as heart, lung or kidney disease, or a weakened immune system. Flu vaccine is especially important for these people, and anyone in close contact with them.
Flu can also lead to pneumonia, and make existing medical conditions worse. It can cause diarrhea and seizures in children. Each year thousands of people in the United States die from flu, and many more are hospitalized.
Flu vaccine is the best protection we have from flu and its complications. Flu vaccine also helps prevent spreading flu from person to person.