Seasonal influenza viruses are continually ascertained and diagnosed all year in the United States. That said, these influenza viruses are most common during the seasons of fall and winter. Though influenza activity in the US often begins in the fall, the onset and duration of the influenza season vary, with peak activity occurring during the winter between December and February; activity can last even into late spring/early summer. Anyone can get sick from an influenza virus, even healthy people.


Influenza, most commonly referred to as the flu, is a viral infection that attacks one’s respiratory system, usually most significant in the nose, throat, and lungs. The flu is contagious; individuals who have the flu can spread it to others in close proximity, from several feet away. Most healthcare professionals and scientists think that flu viruses are spread mainly via droplets expelled by people with the flu when coughing, sneezing, or even just talking. People with the flu tend to be the most contagious in the first three to four days after being infected with a flu virus.


Symptoms of the flu typically begin between one and four days after the virus infects a person. Because of this, someone with the flu may be able to pass the virus to others before knowing he or she is ill. The flu is often thought to be a common cold at the start of illness because the first flu and cold symptoms to develop are often similar–these symptoms include a runny nose, sneezing, and sore throat. But the flu tends to have other associated symptoms as well. Other signs and symptoms of the flu include fever, body aches and muscle weakness, chills and/or sweats, shortness of breath, headache, eye pain, tiredness, and vomiting and diarrhea (especially in children).


If someone suspects that he or she has the flu, it is important to be seen by a doctor for proper assessment and a clear diagnosis. If he or she does have the flu, the doctor might suggest antiviral drugs as a treatment option, to lessen symptoms, shorten the time of illness, and prevent serious flu complications. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends prompt treatment for those with the flu.


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The Mayo Clinic


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)