Fever, headache, fatigue, dry cough, sore throat, stuffy nose, nausea: If these symptoms hit, you may have been bitten by the flu bug.
Who is Most Vulnerable?
During the 2014-'15 flu season,
people over age 65 comprised 60% of all cases of flu in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In February that year, the number of people over age 65 hospitalized for flu was the most since the CDC began recording those numbers in 2005.
Children from birth to age 4 represented the second-highest hospitalization rate.
A Flu Epidemic Every Year
Flu season occurs in the fall and winter, peaking between late November and early March, and it's an epidemic every year. The makeup of
flu viruses can change from year to year, making it difficult to predict.
Flu spreads through droplets when people sneeze or cough, and on surfaces. People are contagious one day before symptoms appear and up to a week after. When you don't feel well, it's best to take care of yourself and co-workers by staying home. And don't go back to work (or school) for at least 24 hours after a fever is gone.
What Can You do to Stay Healthy?
- CDC recommends
everyone older than 6 months get an annual flu vaccine as soon as the vaccine becomes available; October is the ideal time to get vaccinated, but it's never too late
- If you don't like needles, ask your doctor if a nasal flu spray is available
- Avoid being around sick people if possible
- Wash your hands frequently with soap and water, or use hand sanitizer
- Cover your mouth when coughing or sneezing, preferably with the inside of your arm rather than your hand
- Avoid touching your face
- Disinfect surfaces that may be contaminated
Death Rate From Flu is Hard to Calculate
It is difficult to calculate the number of flu deaths annually, according to the CDC. States are not required to report flu deaths, not everyone who dies with flu symptoms is tested for flu, and the virus can cause death when other health conditions are present. About 5% to 20% of people in the U.S. get the flu each year, and an average of
200,000 people are hospitalized for it annually. Flu-related deaths range from about 3,000 to 49,000 a year, depending on the severity of the outbreak.
Keep yourself and others safer by getting a flu shot. Vaccines do not give people the flu. For more information about
how flu vaccines work, visit the CDC website. To see a
weekly report on flu activity across the U.S., check out FluView.