Influenza – “the Flu”
- What is influenza?
Influenza, or “the flu,” is a highly contagious viral infection of the respiratory tract (nose, throat and lungs). The flu is often confused with the common cold, but flu symptoms tend to develop quickly (usually one to four days after a person is exposed to the flu virus) and are usually more severe than the typical sneezing and congestion associated with a cold.
- How widespread is the flu?
Each year, between 10 and 20 percent of the U.S. population is infected with the virus.
- Who is at risk for contracting the flu?
Everyone is at risk for being infected with the influenza virus, and anyone can spread the disease to others. Additionally, children are two-to-three times more likely than adults to develop the flu because of their less-developed immune systems.
- Is the flu a serious disease?
Yes. The flu and its complications lead to more than 200,000 hospital stays per year and tens of thousands of deaths. About 20,000 of those hospitalized with the flu are children under the age of 5 — that’s more than four children per hour during flu season (October to April)!
- How serious is the flu for children?
Children have the highest chance of getting sick from the flu and often spread the germs throughout their communities. During bad flu seasons, about 30 percent of school-aged children get sick. Even though vaccines help cut down on flu-related missed school days by 47 to 56 percent, not enough children are vaccinated annually against the disease. As a result, children sick with the flu miss about 38 million school days every year.
Influenza is also one of the leading causes of infectious disease hospitalizations among young children. Approximately 20,000 children under the age of 5 are hospitalized due to the flu each year. That equates to 870 empty classrooms. Infants and toddlers are hospitalized as a result of influenza at rates similar to elderly people and at higher rates than people of all other ages. On average, approximately 100 children in the United States die from the flu and its complications every year.
- How long does the flu last?
A person infected with the flu virus will typically suffer from the disease for approximately seven to 10 days, with five to six days of limited activity and about three days of bed rest.
- What are the symptoms of the flu?
Influenza is often accompanied with:
- Extreme tiredness
- Dry cough
- Sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Muscle aches
- Nausea, vomiting and diarrhea are also common symptoms in children.
- Where can I learn more about the flu?
You can learn more about the flu and what you can do to help stop its spread by further exploring our Resources.