Influenza, also known as flu, is a highly contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses that infect the nose, throat, and lungs. Though the flu is a common illness that people can get any time of the year, flu activity typically peaks between December and March in Ohio.
What are the symptoms?
Signs of illness typically begin 1-4 days, with an average of about 2 days, after being exposed to a flu virus. Most people feel much better within one to two weeks after symptoms develop. Some common flu symptoms include:
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Headache / Body ache
- Sore throat
- Diarrhea / vomiting (more common in children)
How is it spread?
There are multiple different strains of the flu virus and they mutate often, which is why people continue to get sick
with the flu year after year. The flu is a very contagious illness that spreads easily. You can get the flu from:
- Coughs and sneezes; they transmit droplets from the mouth and nose
- Personal contact (handshakes or hugs)
- Saliva (kissing or sharing drinks)
- Touching contaminated surfaces (doorknobs or faucets)
The flu virus spreads when someone else breathes in those respiratory droplets or touches a contaminated object and then touches their nose, mouth, or eyes. Though people with the flu are most contagious in the first 3-4 days after their symptoms begin, it is possible to infect others beginning 1 day before symptoms develop up to 5-7 days after symptoms develop. It is recommended that people with the flu stay home for at least 24 hours after fever is gone without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.
How it is treated?
Most persons infected with the flu virus will recover without any specific treatment. In more severe cases, antiviral drugs may be prescribed early in the illness (within 3 days of symptom onset) to potentially shorten the duration and severity of symptoms. Medical follow-up is necessary to determine the need for treatment.
How can influenza be prevented?
The best way to prevent seasonal flu is to get vaccinated every year. Practicing proper handwashing techniques, avoiding contact with sick people, limiting contact with others when you are sick, and cleaning/disinfecting frequently touched surfaces are vital to reducing the spread of flu. People sick with the flu should stay home for at least 24 hours after fever is gone without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.