What You Need to Know About the Flu
Besides the rapid start of the outbreaks and the large numbers of people affected, the flu is an important disease because it can cause serious complications. Most people who get it will get better within a week, although they may have a lingering cough and tire easily for a while longer. However, for elderly people, newborn babies, and people with certain chronic illnesses, the flu and its complications can be dangerous.
(Click Flu Complications for more information.)
You can get the flu if someone around you who has it coughs or sneezes. Or, you can get it simply by touching a surface, like a telephone or doorknob, that has been contaminated by someone who has the flu. The viruses can pass through the air and enter your body through your nose or mouth, or if you've touched a contaminated surface, they can pass from your hand to your nose or mouth. You are at greatest risk of getting infected in highly populated areas, such as in crowded living conditions and in schools.
It is estimated that 10 percent to 20 percent of Americans come down with the flu during each flu season, which typically lasts from November to March. Children are 2 to 3 times more likely than adults to get sick with the flu, and children frequently spread the virus to others. Although most people recover from the illness, it is estimated that in the United States more than 100,000 people are hospitalized and about 36,000 people die from this illness and its complications every year.
Key information about the flu includes:
- The flu can be quite dangerous for people who are 65 years of age and older
- It can be prevented
- Each fall, a flu shot is necessary for people in high-risk groups
- The shot is covered by Medicare
- The shot is safe and it cannot cause the flu
- The flu shot and the pneumococcal vaccine can be given at the same time.