Influenza (Flu)

Seasonal Influenza Basics

Seasonal influenza (referred to as “flu”) is a virus that causes illness in people. This virus spreads from person-to-person worldwide. Spread of the seasonal influenza virus occurs in the same way that many viruses spread.

Flu viruses are spread mainly from person to person through coughing or sneezing by people with influenza. Sometimes people may become infected by touching something – such as a surface or object – with flu viruses on it and then touching their mouth or nose.

The symptoms of the influenza virus in people include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea. People may be infected with the seasonal flu and have respiratory symptoms without a fever.

Severe illnesses and death has occurred as a result of illness associated with this virus.

Is there a vaccine for the flu virus? 

There is a vaccine for seasonal flu that is available from health care providers. The seasonal flu vaccine provides protection against seasonal flu, but it is still very important to cover coughs and sneezes and wash hands frequently. It’s also important to be up to date on your other vaccinations, such as TdaP (tetanus/pertussis/diphtheria and Pneumococcal vaccines, to avoid getting infected with more than one germ at once.

Flu Vaccine and Tamiflu Providers(PDF, 86KB)

If you are sick with flu-like illness, 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.) Keep away from others as much as possible. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. Put your used tissue in the waste basket. Then, clean your hands, and do so every time you cough or sneeze.

If I have a family member at home who is sick with seasonal flu, should I go to work? 

Employees who are well but who have an ill family member at home with seasonal flu can go to work as usual. These employees should monitor their health every day, and take everyday precautions including washing their hands often with soap and water, especially after they cough or sneeze.

If soap and water are not available, they should use an alcohol-based hand rub. If they become ill, they should notify their supervisor and stay home. Employees who have an underlying medical condition or who are pregnant should call their health care provider for advice, because they might need to receive influenza antiviral drugs to prevent illness.

What is the best technique for washing my hands to avoid getting the flu? 

Washing your hands often will help protect you from germs. CDC recommends that when you wash your hands -- with soap and warm water -- that you wash for 15 to 20 seconds. When soap and water are not available, alcohol-based disposable hand wipes or gel sanitizers may be used.

How long can influenza virus remain viable on objects (such as books and doorknobs)? 

Studies have shown that influenza virus can survive on environmental surfaces and can infect a person for 2 to 8 hours after being deposited on the surface.

What surfaces are most likely to be sources of contamination?

Germs can be spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches his or her eyes, nose, or mouth. Droplets from a cough or sneeze of an infected person move through the air. Germs can be spread when a person touches respiratory droplets from another person on a surface like a desk, for example, and then touches their own eyes, mouth or nose before washing their hands.