Healthy Horizons

Influenza Virus

 What is the flu?

The flu is a transmittable viral illness that occurs commonly in the winter months. It is spread from person-to-person from the large droplets sprayed from the mouth and nose when a person coughs or sneezes. It can also be spread by touching something with the flu virus on it and then touching your mouth or nose. The flu can be very serious for certain groups of people, including: the very young, older adults, pregnant women, and people with underlying health conditions (such as asthma, diabetes, weakened immune systems, heart disease, kidney disease, liver disease, certain mental disorders, and blood disorders).

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How can I prevent the spread of the flu?

  • Obtain a seasonal flu vaccine.
  • Wash your hands often and for 15 to 20 seconds at a time. Use soap and water or alcohol based hand sanitizers.
  • Avoid close contact with anyone you know is sick. If face-to-face contact with an infected individual is necessary, they should wear a face mask (N95 respirators are a good option).
  • Try to avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth frequently.
  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze and throw the tissue in the trash afterwards. Also, cough or sneeze into your sleeve if a tissue is not available. Make sure to wash your hands after coughing or sneezing.
  • If you are sick with flu-like symptoms, stay home!
  • Follow public health advice about closures and travel.

Flu-Like Signs and Symptoms

  • Fever (>100°F)
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Headache
  • Body aches
  • Chills
  • Extreme tiredness
  • Vomiting and diarrhea

What should I do if I get sick?

Stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever resolves (without taking anti-fever medications). A fever is defined as a temperature above 100°F. If possible, stay in a room separate from all common areas of the house, keep the door closed, and use a separate bathroom.

When should I seek help?

It is not always necessary to seek medical attention if you are sick with the flu. If your illness is severe or you are at high risk for complications (children younger than 5, pregnant women, and people with chronic medical conditions including diabetes, heart disease, asthma, and kidney disease), contact your health care provider immediately. If you experience any of the following symptoms, seek medical attention: shortness of breath, pain in your chest or abdomen, sudden dizziness, confusion, severe vomiting, or flu-like symptoms that improve but return with fever and/or worsened cough.

What can I do to treat the symptoms of the flu?

  • Rest until symptoms have resolved
  • Drink plenty of fluids so that you do not become dehydrated
  • Over-the-counter medications such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen, and aspirin can be used to relieve fever, headache, and muscle pains

How long am I contagious?

You can spread the virus from 1 day before symptoms and up to 7 days after you become sick. Children and people with weakened immune systems may spread the virus for longer.

Where can I look for more information?

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention | 1-800-CDC-INFO or http://cdc.gov/flu

The World Health Organization | http://www.who.int/en/

Indiana State Department of Health | http://www.in.gov/isdh/