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How Is Influenza Transmitted

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The influenza viruses mainly are spread from person to person through droplets produced while coughing or sneezing. Droplets of an infected person are propelled by coughing, sneezing, and talking into the air and are deposited on the mouth or nose of people nearby. This droplet transmission of the flu is known as contact transmission.

The influenza viruses can also be transmitted by indirect contact by touching a contaminated object or surface and then touching your own mouth, eyes or nose before washing your hands. This action is also called fomite transmission â a fomite is any surface or inanimate thing that can carry an agent after an infected person contaminated it by touching it or sneezing on it. Viruses can survive on surfaces â they live longer on hard, impermeable surfaces than on porous surfaces . The viruses can still be infective for two hours and maybe up to eight hours. It is easier to catch the common cold than influenza by fomite transmission because some of the “cold” viruses have much smaller infectious doses than the “flu” viruses.

The Flu Takes Heavy Toll On Society

The flu took a heavy human toll, wiping out entire families and leaving countless widows and orphans in its wake. Funeral parlors were overwhelmed and bodies piled up. Many people had to dig graves for their own family members.

The flu was also detrimental to the economy. In the United States, businesses were forced to shut down because so many employees were sick. Basic services such as mail delivery and garbage collection were hindered due to flu-stricken workers.

In some places there werent enough farm workers to harvest crops. Even state and local health departments closed for business, hampering efforts to chronicle the spread of the 1918 flu and provide the public with answers about it.

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Managing Your Symptoms At Home

If you’re otherwise healthy, you can look after yourself at home by resting, keeping warm and drinking plenty of water to avoid dehydration.

If you’re concerned about coronavirus , be mindful of our ibuprofen advice on the coronavius page.

If you feel unwell and have a fever, you can take paracetamol or anti-inflammatory medicines such as ibuprofen to lower your temperature and relieve aches. Children under 16 shouldn’t be given aspirin.

Stay off work or school until you’re feeling better. For most people, this will take about a week. See your GP if your symptoms get worse or last longer than a week.

Read the page on preventing flu for more information about stopping the infection spreading to others.

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What Are The Side Effects Of Flu Vaccines

The flu vaccine is safe and cannot give you the flu. Most people have no problem with a flu vaccine.

The most common side effects are soreness, redness, or swelling where you were vaccinated. Some people also get a headache, fever, nausea, or muscle aches. These side effects may start shortly after getting the vaccine and can last up to two days. They typically do not get in the way of daily activities.

Even people with mild egg allergies can safely get most flu vaccines. Egg-free flu vaccines are also available. You should not get vaccinated if you have had a severe allergic reaction to the flu vaccine in the past. Talk with your health care provider about your options for flu vaccines and side effects.

When To Get The Flu Shot

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Flu season typically runs from late fall to early spring.

Flu shots are now available for all Ontarians. You should get a flu shot as soon as possible because it takes two weeks to take effect.

The National Advisory Committee on Immunization now recommends that COVID-19 vaccines may be given at the same time as the flu vaccine.

Talk to your doctor or pharmacy to learn more.

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How Do I Take Care Of Myself If I Have Bird Flu

You can treat symptoms of bird flu the same way you would treat seasonal flu symptoms. This includes:

  • Taking any antiviral medication as prescribed.
  • Taking acetaminophen or ibuprofen as directed for symptoms like pain and fever.
  • Drinking plenty of fluids.
  • Washing your hands often and taking care not to pass on any germs.

How Can You Tell The Difference Between A Common Cold And Influenza

Many cold and flu symptoms are similar. Both the common cold and the flu are caused by viruses.

There are some differences with influenza. Symptoms of influenza often hit suddenly and cause you to become weaker and weaker. While the more uncomfortable symptoms of flu generally last from three to seven days, the dry cough and fatigue of influenza can last two to three weeks. Signs that influenza is getting worse include increasing degree of fever, and shortness of breath. If you think that your illness is getting worse, contact your doctor right away.

Symptoms of colds and flu

  • Stay at home.
  • Take acetaminophen to reduce fever and relieve muscle aches.

Note: Adults should not give aspirin to children or adolescents with fevers due to the association with Reye’s syndrome, a rare disorder that causes brain and liver damage.

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Spanish Flu Pandemic Ends

Almost 90 years later, in 2008, researchers announced theyd discovered what made the 1918 flu so deadly: A group of three genes enabled the virus to weaken a victims bronchial tubes and lungs and clear the way for bacterial pneumonia.

Since 1918, there have been several other influenza pandemics, although none as deadly. A flu pandemic from 1957 to 1958 killed around 2 million people worldwide, including some 70,000 people in the United States, and a pandemic from 1968 to 1969 killed approximately 1 million people, including some 34,000 Americans.

More than 12,000 Americans perished during the H1N1 pandemic that occurred from 2009 to 2010. The novel coronavirus pandemic of 2020 is spreading around the world as countries race to find a cure for COVID-19 and citizens shelter in place in an attempt to avoid spreading the disease. .

Each of these modern day pandemics brings renewed interest in and attention to the Spanish Flu, or forgotten pandemic, so-named because its spread was overshadowed by the deadliness of WWI and covered up by news blackouts and poor record-keeping.

Can You Get Medicine For Influenza

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If you are seriously ill, your doctor might order an antiviral drug for you. Antiviral drugs for influenza include oseltamivir phosphate zanamivir peramivir and baloxavir .

Oseltamivir phosphate

This drug is approved to treat influenza in patients who are two weeks of age and older, and it works best in people who have had the flu for fewer than two days. It is also approved to prevent flu in patients who are one year of age and older. There is a generic version of this product available, but it costs nearly as much as the brand name. Potential side effects include nausea, vomiting, nosebleeds, headaches and tiredness.


This drug is approved to treat flu in patients seven years old and older, and to prevent flu in patients who are five and older. This product is inhaled and not recommended for people who have respiratory illnesses like COPD or asthma. Common side effects include headaches, nausea, diarrhea, nose irritation and vomiting.


This drug is approved to treat flu in people 2 years old and older. This product is given into the vein by a healthcare provider. A common side effect from peramivir is diarrhea.


This drug, a pill, is approved to treat flu in people 12 years old and older who are otherwise healthy and in people who are at higher risk of developing influenza-related complications. Common side effects are diarrhea, bronchitis, nausea and headaches.

What complications are associated with influenza ?

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Evolution And Virulence Of Influenza Viruses

Between worldwide outbreaks, known as pandemics, influenza viruses undergo constant, rapid evolution , which is driven by mutations in the genes encoding antigen proteins. Periodically, the viruses undergo major evolutionary change by acquiring a new genome segment from another influenza virus , effectively becoming a new subtype. Viral evolution is facilitated by animals such as pigs and birds, which serve as reservoirs of influenza viruses. When a pig is simultaneously infected with different influenza A viruses, such as human, swine, and avian strains, genetic reassortment can occur. This process gives rise to new strains of influenza A.

Why Was The Disease Behind The 1918

Spain was unlikely to be the source of the Spanish flu. Its possible that the flu might have begun in the U.S. or France. But Spain was neutral during World War I and didnt censor its news. Therefore, Spanish news sources reported the results of the devastating disease that was sickening and killing people. People all over the world were getting sick and dying, but countries involved in World War I were censoring the news.

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When Should You Go Back To Work Or School If You Have Had The Flu

You are contagious for one day before starting feeling ill, and for 5 to 7 days while you have the flu symptoms. At the very least, you should stay at home until you are able to go 24 hours without taking something for fever. If you have other severe symptoms, such as incessant cough or shortness of breath, you should stay at home.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 11/24/2019.


How Long Am I Contagious

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You can spread the flu 7 days after symptoms start. The virus can live in your mucus and spit up to 24 hours before you start to feel bad. This means you might give it to someone else a full day before your symptoms begin.

Young children can still spread the flu even into the second week of illness.

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How Many Types Of Flu Viruses Are There

There are three different types of flu viruses that affect humans: type A, type B, and type C.

Animals and humans can contract type A flu because the flu virus can be transmitted from animals to humans. This virus constantly changes and can cause annual flu epidemics.

Type B flu can also cause seasonal outbreaks during the winter months. However, this type is typically less severe than type A and causes milder symptoms. Occasionally, type B can cause severe complications. Type B can only be transmitted from humans to humans.

Different strains cause type A and B flu.

Type C flu affects humans and some animals too. It causes mild symptoms and few complications.

How Serious Is The Flu

Most people who get the flu feel better after a few days to two weeks. However, the flu can be serious, and some people will develop other health issues, called complications, because of the flu. Complications can be mild, such as a sinus or ear infection, or more serious, like pneumonia.

Anyone can get sick from the flu, but some people are more likely to have complications. You are more at risk for flu and its complications if you:

  • Are age 65 or older
  • Have certain medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease
  • Have heart disease or have had a stroke
  • Live in a nursing home or other long-term care facility

Pregnant women and children younger than five years old are also more likely to get very sick from the flu. Learn more about people at increased risk for flu and its complications.

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Why Do People Usually Get The Flu In Winter

Many things may play a role:

  • The virus lives longer indoors in winter, because the air is less humid than outside.
  • While itâs alive and in the air, itâs easy for people to inhale it, or for it to land on the eyes, nose, or mouth.
  • We spend more time indoors and have closer contact with each other, which makes it easier for the virus to spread.

When To Get Vaccinated Against Seasonal Flu

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Yearly flu vaccination should begin soon after flu vaccine is available, and ideally by October. However, getting vaccinated even later can be protective, as long as flu viruses are circulating. While seasonal influenza outbreaks can happen as early as October, most of the time influenza activity peaks in January or later. Since it takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop in the body that protect against influenza virus infection, it is best that people get vaccinated so they are protected before influenza begins spreading in their community.

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How Is The Flu Diagnosed

To diagnose the flu, health care providers will first do a medical history and ask about your symptoms. There are several tests for the flu. For the tests, your provider will swipe the inside of your nose or the back of your throat with a swab. Then the swab will be tested for the flu virus.

Some tests are quick and give results in 15-20 minutes. But these tests are not as accurate as other flu tests. These other tests can give you the results in one hour or several hours.

Understanding The Differences Between Bacterial And Viral Infections

Influenza is a contagious respiratory disease caused by the influenza A, B, or C virus. Influenza viruses are airborne and affect the nose, throat, and lungs.

Not all illnesses are caused by viruses. Some such as bacterial pneumonia can cause flu-like symptoms but are caused by bacteria. However, the flu can lead to bacterial infections as a person’s natural defenses may be weakened during an infection.

Infections that occur shortly after the primary infection are called secondary infections. In this article, we will cover the differences between bacterial and viral infections.

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What Causes Influenza

Influenza has likely been around for millennia, though its cause was only identified relatively recently.

One of the earliest reports of an influenza-like illness comes from Hippocrates, who described a highly contagious disease from northern Greece .

The word influenza, however, wasnt used to describe a disease until many centuries later. In 1357, people called an epidemic in Florence, Italy influenza di freddo, which translates to cold influence, referring to the diseases possible cause.

In 1414, French chroniclers used similar terms to describe an epidemic that affected up to 100,000 people in Paris. They said it originated from vent puant et tout plein de froidure, or a smelly and cold wind.

The term influenza became commonplace to describe the disease, at least in Britain, in the mid-1700s. At the time, it was thought that the influence of the cold , along with astrological influences or the conjunction of stars and planets , caused the disease.

In 1892, Dr. Richard Pfeiffer isolated an unknown bacterium from the sputum of his sickest flu patients, and he concluded that the bacteria caused influenza. He called it Pfeiffers bacillus, or Haemophilus influenzae.

Scientists later discovered that H. influenzae causes many types of infectionsincluding pneumonia and meningitisbut not influenza.

Researchers finally isolated the virus that causes flu from pigs in 1931, and from humans in 1933.

How Can I Avoid It

Understanding Influenza Viruses

Keep your hands clean. Wash them often to remove germs. Try to avoid touching your face. And get a flu shot. The CDC makes a flu vaccine based on the type A strain that it believes will be most prevalent in the coming flu season. This is what you get with the annual flu shot or FluMist nasal spray. That said, FluMist is not recommended for use during the 2017-2018 season because it might not be effective.

Also see WebMD’s “What Is FluMist?

Show Sources

CDC: “Estimating Seasonal Influenza-Associated Deaths in the United States: CDC Study Confirms Variability of Flu” and “The Influenza Viruses.”National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases: “Flu : Causes.”Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America: “Flu .”FDA: “The Flu.”

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Influenza A Vs Influenza B

Types A and B influenza are the more common forms of this infection, routinely causing seasonal outbreaks. Type C influenza usually only causes mild respiratory infections.

Type B influenza can be just as severe as type A influenza but is less common throughout the flu season compared to type A.

Humans are the natural host for type B infection. Type B viruses mutate much slower than type A infections and are categorized by strains, but not subtypes. The B virus strains take longer for their genetic makeup to change than influenza A. This drastically reduces the risk of a widespread pandemic due to type B influenza.

Type A influenza can be dangerous and is known to cause outbreaks and increase your risk of disease. Unlike a type B infection, type A viruses are categorized by subtypes and strains. Influenza A mutates faster than influenza B, but both viruses are always changing, creating new strains from one flu season to the next. Past flu vaccinations will not prevent infection from a new strain.

Wild birds are the natural hosts for a type A virus, also called avian flu and bird flu. This infection can also spread to other animals and humans. This, combined with the ability of type A influenza to mutate faster than type B, can cause pandemics.

Who Is More Likely To Get Very Sick With The Flu

Below is a list of groups of people who may get very sick if they have the flu. It is important that they, and the people around them, get a flu shot.

  • People with lung disease like asthma
  • People of all ages with ongoing medical conditions like diabetes, heart disease, kidney or liver disease, blood cell disease including sickle cell, or neurological diseases that affect swallowing or breathing
  • Pregnant women and women who have given birth within 2 weeks
  • Children younger than 5 years, especially those younger than 2 years
  • Adults age 50 years and over
  • People with weak immune systems
  • Household contacts and caregivers of children younger than 5 years and adults aged 50 years and older, with particular emphasis on vaccinating contacts of children aged younger than 6 months and
  • Household contacts and caregivers of people with medical conditions that put them at higher risk for severe complications from influenza.

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