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What is the flu?

Dr. Jeanne Morrison, PhD
Family Practitioner

Influenza is an infection of the respiratory system. You may know it as the flu. The infection is caused by one of many influenza viruses. It may keep you home from work or school, but, in some cases, it could put you in the hospital due to any underlying health conditions you might have.

The flu (also called influenza) is a viral infection that affects the respiratory system. It can cause mild-to-severe illness, and sometimes it can lead to death.

Influenza ("the flu" for short) is a common respiratory infection caused by a virus. Flu symptoms include:

  • Fever and/or chills
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Body aches and/or headache
  • Fatigue
  • Diarrhea and vomiting

Most people with the flu recover without medical treatment. However, some people need to be treated in the hospital, and some people die from the flu or its complications.

Most flu cases are in early winter. The timing of flu can vary from year to year, though—usually from fall to spring, with scattered cases in the summer.

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.

Influenza (the flu) is a viral infection that causes respiratory illness—fever, runny nose, cough, headache, and inflammation of the nasal passages and airways. The flu can cause an incapacitating feeling of illness (malaise) for several days.

The flu, or influenza, is a viral disease of the respiratory tract—the nose, throat, bronchial tubes and lungs—and is highly contagious. It is spread though airborne droplets of moisture produced by coughs or sneezes. When you breathe these germs in through your nose or mouth, you may come down with the flu, generally within one to four days of exposure. The flu is a potentially serious disease that can lead to hospitalization, or, in severe cases, death.

Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiologist (Heart Specialist)

Influenza is a highly common and contagious disease that can cause fever, aches and pains, cough, congestion, and lead to pneumonia, and, in rare cases, death. The vast majority of cases are an inconvenience, not deadly. Out of four hundred thousand pregnant women in the United States who contract influenza each year, four hundred die of it, and an equal number are believed to have children with some significant abnormality because of it. Keeping the immune system strong with vitamin D3 during the winter, along with obsessive hand washing and great sleep, helps avoid the flu.

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The flu is not just a cold with a runny nose. It’s also not a stomach bug or “stomach flu” with vomiting and diarrhea. The flu is a very serious respiratory illness with high fever, cough and severe body aches. For an otherwise healthy person, the flu is probably the worst you will ever feel.

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 even death. Flu can cause serious health problems such as pneumonia and is especially dangerous for young children, elderly and anyone with asthma or other chronic diseases. 

The absolute best way to protect your family against the flu is to vaccinate everyone 6 months of age and older. The flu shot is an inactivated or killed virus vaccine. It can be given to anyone 6 months of age and older, even if you have a chronic medical condition. Other than a sore arm, side effects are rare.

The best way to stay healthy this flu season is to make sure the whole family gets flu vaccines, washes their hands, covers their coughs, eats healthy, exercises, gets plenty of sleep, stays home when sick and gets regular check-ups. And make sure you see your physician if you have questions.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.