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Frequently Asked Questions (Seasonal Flu)
 
red bullet What is influenza (also called flu)?
The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses that infect the nose, throat, and lungs. It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death. The best way to prevent the flu is by getting a flu vaccine each year. An average of 2,800 North Dakotans are reported as having lab-identified flu every year--the number of actual cases occuring in North Dakota each year is likely much higher.

 
red bullet What are the signs and symptoms of flu?

People who have the flu often feel some or all of these signs and symptoms:

  • Fever* or feeling feverish/chills
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue (very tired)
  • Chills
* It is important to note that not everyone with flu will have a fever.

red bullet What about the stomach flu?
The "stomch flu" is a misleading term. Typically, influenza virus is not the cause of stomach bugs. Vomiting and diarrhea are rare but possible symtoms of influenza, generally seen only in small children. Vomiting and diarrhea are slightly more common in children with the 2009 A H1N1 pandemic strain than other strains of influenza. However, these symptoms are typically accompanied by other influenza symptoms that are not secondary symptoms of vomiting and diarrhea. For example, body aches that are not abdominal cramps or the abdominal soreness you may feel after vomiting. An illness characterized by fever, nausea and vomiting is likely not influenza, and should not be considered "flu-like."

red bullet How does flu spread?
Most experts believe that flu viruses spread mainly by droplets made when people with flu cough, sneeze or talk.  These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby.  Less often, a person might also get flu by touching a surface or object that has flu virus on it and then touching their own mouth, eyes or possibly their nose.

 
red bullet How long is someone contagious if they have the flu?
You may be able to pass the flu to someone else before you know you are sick, as well as while you are sick.  Most healthy adults may be able to infect others beginning 1 day before symptoms develop and up to 5 to 7 days after becoming sick.  Some people, especially young children and people with weakened immune symptoms, might be able to infect others for an even longer time.

 
red bullet How can I prevent the flu?

The single best way to prevent the flu is to get a flu vaccine each season. There are two types of flu vaccines:

  • “Flu shots” — inactivated vaccines (containing killed virus) that are given with a needle. There are five flu shots being produced for the United States market now.
    • The regular seasonal flu shot is “intramuscular” which means it is injected into muscle (usually in the upper arm). It has been used for decades and is approved for use in people 6 months of age and older, including healthy people, people with chronic medical conditions and pregnant women. Regular flu shots make up the bulk of the vaccine supply produced for the United States. This year, flu shots come in either quadrivalent or trivalent forms. Trivalent vaccine protects against two types of influenza A virus and one type of influenza B virus. Quadrivalent vaccines protect against the same three strains as the trivalent vaccine and also include protection against an additional B strain.
    • A hi-dose, intramusular vaccine for people 65 and older. This trivalent vaccine is thought to help boost the immune response in older people.
    • An intradermal vaccine for people 18 to 64 years of age which is injected with a needle into the “dermis” or skin. This vaccine is trivalent.
    • An intramuscular, trivalent vaccine that is made in cell culture and has low egg content. This vaccine is approved for people 18 and older.
    • An intramuscular, trivalent vaccine that is egg free. This vaccine is approved for people 18-49.
  • The nasal-spray flu vaccine — a vaccine made with live, weakened flu viruses that is given as a nasal spray (sometimes called LAIV for “Live Attenuated Influenza Vaccine”). The viruses in the nasal spray vaccine do not cause the flu. LAIV is approved for use in healthy* people 2 to 49 years of age who are not pregnant. All LAIV is quadrivalent.

Flu vaccination is recommended for everyone 6 months and older. Talk to a health care professional about which vaccine is right for you. After vaccination, it takes about two weeks for your body to develop protection against the flu. Flu vaccines will not protect against flu-like illnesses caused by non-influenza viruses.

In addition to vaccination, you can help prevent the spread of influenza by washing your hands often, staying home when you are ill and taking influenza antivirals if they have been perscribed to you.

 
red bullet When should I get vaccinated?  
The typical flu season can fall anywhere between October and May, and usually peaks sometime between January and March. Because the timing of the flu season can be unpredictable, health care providers are encouraged to begin vaccinating as soon as the seasonal vaccine is available. Ideally, vaccination should take place by the end of October. However, it is never too late to get vaccinated. As long as flu is circulating, vaccination is recommended. It will be take about two weeks from the time of vaccination for you to be protected. The influenza vaccine does not protect against other respiratory illnesses.


Influenza Fact Sheets
Flu/Seasonal Influenza
Avian Influenza