Influenza

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Influenza (flu) is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. Symptoms can include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuff nose, muscle or body aches, headaches, chills and fatigue (tiredness). Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea. The flu can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to hospitalization or death. Some people, such as older people, young children, and people with certain health conditions, are at high risk for serious flu complications. The best way to prevent the flu is by getting vaccinated each year.

A yearly flu vaccine is recommended for everyone 6 months and older without an increased risk for a serious adverse reaction. All of the 2016-2017 flu vaccines are made to protect against an influenza A (H1N1) virus, an influenza A (H3N2) virus, and one or two influenza B viruses, depending on the flu vaccine. Talk with your health care provider about which vaccine is right for you.

How to Protect Yourself

The single best way to prevent the flu is to get a flu vaccine every year.

A yearly flu vaccine is recommended for everyone 6 months and older without an increased risk for a serious adverse reaction. It is especially important that certain people get vaccinated either because they are at high risk of having serious flu-related complications or because they live with or care for people at high risk for developing flu-related complications.

There are three types of flu vaccines:

You should receive a flu vaccine by the end of October, if possible. Vaccination should continue to be offered as long as flu viruses are circulating, even in January or later. While seasonal flu outbreaks can happen as early as October, during most seasons flu activity peaks in January or later. It is best to get vaccinated before flu viruses start to spread in your community since it takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop in the body and provide protection against the flu.

For more information about seasonal flu vaccines, visit Key Facts About Seasonal Flu Vaccine.

How To Protect You and Your Family from the Flu

The Flu I.Q. Click to Start Quiz

Prevention Tips

What to Do if You Think You Have the Flu

Your illness might be the flu if you have fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills or fatigue (tiredness). Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea. People may be infected with the flu and have respiratory symptoms without a fever.

If you develop flu-like symptoms and are concerned about your illness, especially if you are at high risk for complications of the flu, you should consult your health care provider. It is very difficult to distinguish the flu from other infections on the basis of symptoms alone. Most people with the flu have mild illness and do not need medical care. However, if you have symptoms of flu and are in a high risk group, or are very sick and worried about your illness, contact your health care provider. There are tests that can determine if you have the flu. There are also drugs your doctor may prescribe for treating the flu called antivirals.

If you get the flu, get plenty of rest, drink a lot of liquids, and avoid using alcohol and tobacco. Also, you can take medications such as Tylenol to relieve the fever and muscle aches associated with the flu. Never give aspirin to children or teenagers who have flu-like symptoms, particularly fever. Stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone without the use of a fever-reducing medicine, except to get medical care or other necessities.

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