6 Things You Need to Know About This Flu Season

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Sick boy lying in bed having his temperature taken with a thermometer.

Seasonal flu activity has been intense this season.  As of February 16, 2018 most of the United States continues to experience intense and widespread flu activity, with record-breaking levels of influenza-like-illness and hospitalization rates recorded. While H3N2 viruses are still most common, there is an increasing number of influenza B viruses being detected. It’s not uncommon for second waves of B virus activity to occur during a flu season. It’s likely that flu activity will continue for several more weeks.

Here are some important things to know right now to protect yourself and your loved ones from flu:

1.  What are the symptoms of flu?

Flu viruses can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death. The flu is different from a cold. The flu usually comes onIf you have the emergency warning signs of flu sickness, you should go to the emergency room. These include: In children • Fast breathing or trouble breathing • Bluish skin color • Not drinking enough fluids • Not waking up or not interacting • Being so irritable that the child does not want to be held • Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough • Fever with a rash; In addition to the signs above, get medical help right away for any infant who has any of these signs: • Being unable to eat • Has trouble breathing • Has no tears when crying • Significantly fewer wet diapers than normal; In adults • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath • Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen • Sudden dizziness • Confusion • Severe or persistent vomiting • Flu-like symptoms that improve but then return with fever and worse cough. suddenly. People who have the flu often feel some or all of these symptoms:

  • Fever* or feeling feverish/chills
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue (tiredness)
  • Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults

* It’s important to note that not everyone with flu will have a fever.

2.  What do I do if I get sick?

Most people with the flu have mild illness and do not need medical care or antiviral drugs. If you get flu symptoms, in most cases you should stay home and avoid contact with other people, except to get medical care.

CDC recommends that antiviral drugs be used early to treat people who are very sick with the flu (for example, people who are in the hospital) and people who are sick with the flu and are at high risk of serious flu complications, either because of their age or because they have a high risk medical condition.

3. Is it too late to get a flu shot?

No!  As long as flu viruses are still circulating, it is not too late to get a flu shot.  Flu vaccination is the best way to prevent flu illness and serious flu complications, including those that can result in hospitalization. Unfortunately, flu vaccines don’t work as well against H3N2 viruses, which means that some people who got vaccinated will still get sick; however, there are some data to suggest that flu vaccination may make illness milder. Flu vaccines usually work better against H1N1 viruses, which is another good reason to get vaccinated, since H1N1 is circulating too.

4.  Why should I get a flu shot?

In addition to protecting yourself, getting vaccinated also protects people around you, including people who are more vulnerable to serious flu illness, like babies and young children, older people, pregnant women and people with certain chronic health conditions.

5.  Does the flu shot work?

Vaccine effectiveness data for this season are not available yet, but we know that flu vaccines do not work as well against H3N2 viruses, which are predominant so far this season.

6.  What else can I do to protect myself from flu?

Definitely try to avoid close contact with sick people.  If you do get sick, limit contact with others as much as possible to keep from infecting them. Stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone without the use of fever-reducing drugs (unless you need medical care or other necessities).

Other tips for stopping the spread of germs:

  • Make sure you cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth. Germs spread this way!
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs like the flu.
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34 comments on “6 Things You Need to Know About This Flu Season”

Comments listed below are posted by individuals not associated with CDC, unless otherwise stated. These comments do not represent the official views of CDC, and CDC does not guarantee that any information posted by individuals on this site is correct, and disclaims any liability for any loss or damage resulting from reliance on any such information. Read more about our comment policy ».

    The flu is real.

    First i will say that I will be 64 this year…i have never had the flu and i have never ever taken the flu shot because there is always one person that dies after wards and i do not want to be that one.

    i claim my secret to staying healthy by exercising, eating foods your body needs…..let me explain that last statement…..some people lack iron….therefore, eat the foods that will supplement the lack of iron in your body.

    This self knowledge is done over years of self observation……your body will tell you when something is wrong pay attention.

    example……as much as i love coffee, the effects of caffeine have been bouncing off the walls…meaning no good night sleep for you…so i settle for half a cup of java once every two weeks….for we need our rest to maintain that healthy state.

    one thing i would like to beef up……human should have a bowel movement 24 hours after every meal…..but lifestyle dictates so we fail to take the time to observe this rule……and only a balance meal will give this result…. not fast foods

    fast foods ok…..but not a way of life

    now being 64, i do not have a health condition that requires doctor care…..but should i go for that exagerated physical all humans should have ….i guarantee my physician will find something that requires prescriptions….and all prescriptions have side affects…..so you die from the treatment that causes theses side affects…..i dont understand why prescriptions are so overrated,,,,,,for they are not cures….that treatments….
    and most will pay a healthy sum for medicine….they dont come cheap….i think will take my prescription money and go on a cruise…..medicine is cheap to manufacture….what you are paying for is the research and the capitalist private plane and boats in the harbor and their vacations

    if you are eating healthy you waste will float….so your next bowel movement….check it out and see if it is floating….if not change your diet

    The CDC’s war on legitimate chronic-pain patients is most likely contributing to the severity of this season’s flu outbreak. I have a compromised immune system, but have successfully avoided the flu by avoiding crowds and sick people. Until now. Thanks to the new and ineffective opioid guidelines which my Pain Management Specialist chooses to abide by, I now have to go to a medical clinic full of sick people once a month. My asthma, which has been well controlled for 2 years, has returned with a vengeance. Thanks, CDC, for making my life miserable in every way possible.

    if you have more than one child then get all treated and the flu shot de germ your house wash the clothes ,bedding etc also spray the house with lysol,bed ,everything they have contact spray wipe keep clean also i went and got paper plates,cups bowls so once their done with meals throw the paper plates,bowls etc in the trash everyday i am a grandmother of five kids i take care of and once one had it they all got it but i was on top i have kept everything clean super so it does not re surface in my home and the kids get sick again i have a good doctor so when the other kids got sick he had the meds delivered to me where i didn’t have to take the kids out in public. to date their healing and will be ready to go to school on Tuesday and i did not get it at all and yes i have gotten the flu shot and make sure you give them plenty of water, bananas, this will keep them stable as well

    Obviously, all organizations have their faults but in my experience the CDC is on my go-to list of reputable sources of information.

    The plural of anecdote is not data, which I believe is easy for people to ignore. Often.

    But I do count on information which is clearly written and data driven.

    So clearly, I am not relying on anecdotal experiences, right?!?!!
    Ah, well: it’s just too much work to be the Queen of Always Being Right…

    I am 6o yrs. I had a bad case of flue in 1998, e erh year sknce I have had a flu shot and did not have the flu till this season. Christmas till Jan 2. I will keep getting flu shots. why not give shot for both kind of flu you mentioned. May not help all but should help.

    Not that you aren’t already but I would strongly recommend taking Sharon Washington’s comments with a serious bit of skepticism. Learn about influenza by looking at the data, not following someone’s opinion. Make decisions by reviewing good information and asking questions to knowledgeable, experienced people like public health professionals and clinicians.

    I would like to know how the rapid flu test works. A few years back I took my son in for a sinus infection, something he was getting 1-2 times per year, so I know the symptoms. Despite my listing ALL his symptoms, the doc insisted on doing a flu test….and came back with it as being positive. She didn’t want to give him the antibiotic he sorely needed, insisting it was the flu. Long story short, I finally convinced her to prescribe the antibiotic and within a couple days he was much better. This year he had severe cough lots of drainage and sore throat from the drainage. Guess what diagnosed as flu again. Because he wasn’t spitting and blowing green and brown, I said Ok and he took the tammiflu, with virtually no change. It’s been almost 2 weeks and guess what , we’re at the green/brown mucous stage and hopefully he will be treated for what he really has. So back to the question, “What are the statistics that prove this quickie test is accurate, and my son isn’t a carrier of the virus, like someone with MRSA, etc?

    What about those eho have all flu symptoms but test negative an neg for strepp. We were told we have Adnovirus (?) Not sure on spelling. What is it an why isnt there something for it? Or would tamiflu work on it.? We all tested neg for Flu a/b an neg for strepp. Symptoms: high fever over 100. , came suddenly within 24 hrs., body aches/chills, sore throat, upper respiratory issue’s, coughing bad, bronchitis eventually. Put on Z-pak one son age 20. Other son age 15 put on Omnicef due to sinus infection that developed. Albuterol treatment for oldest with bronchitis. Its pretty bad. Whatever the Adnovirus is. Sick for 6-7 days.

    The three most important things to help you avoid contracting the flu:
    1. Wash your hands frequently.
    2. Wash your hands frequently.
    3. Wash your hands frequently.

    Response to Sharon Washington and Thomas Cook: 1st Thomas, a face mask will filter out some germs, but only larger ones, like bacteria. Viruses which much smaller can come thru a face mask. Also because facemasks tend to get damp from breathing thru them germs may actually accumulate in them. It is rather those who are ill with respiratory illness but must go out, who ought to wear facemasks. And next to Sharon, I have not read anything so ridiculous in my life. You think at age 64 you are healthy because you eat right,exercise and get sufficient sleep. Diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, kidney disease, and other serious conditions can be present in early stages without a person being aware. Yes you should get a physical exam from a doctor recommended to you. Your health practices are to be commended, but do not mean everything is OK. And if you drive an automobile, you are probably taking a bigger risk, than if you get a flu shot.

    CDC’s advice to frequently wash hands is sensible and addresses that portion of flu transfer that occurs through physical contact. However, they should also mention that alcohol hand sanitizers are highly effective against influenza viruses (at least as much as hand washing, probably more in actual practice), more convenient, and less drying to hands. CDC specifically recommended alcohol sanitizers beginning with the SARS outbreak several years ago, and did the same with the H1H1 pandemic in 2009.

    I work in a call center and it would hard to wear a face mask. I even sprayed my desk with Lysol every day and have sanitary wipes and tissues and wash my hands all the time but still caught a cold. I believe it’s just a headcold because I’m all stuffed and no favor or cough but I’m sneezing so only worked half a day, came home, drank hot tea, lots fluids and onion soup. I bought Zircon but spit it out after a minute, it was so disgusting. I take vitamins every day with more vitamin C now, apparently that doesn’t help too much.

    It is my understanding that the only effective mask against the flu virus is a NIOSH approved N95 mask. Other masks do not stop the very small flu virus. Additionally removing and putting back on such a mask should be done with care since flu virus may be present on the outside of the mask.

    Sharon Washington’s comments are sadly mistaken. 64? I’m 84, and I have never missed
    a year for flu shots. She says one person dies from flu shot every year. Never heard
    of this. But if true, please think that as many as 30,000 die from the flu each year.
    Sharon is entitled to her own thoughts, but please don’t spread those opinions
    around — they may be as bad as the flu virus!

    Colds do not involve the lungs, flu does. Wearing a face mask will protect others from your germs, but it will not prevent you from catching the flu.

    People with mindsets like Sharon’s are looking for excuses not to have preventive treatment-ESPECIALLY SHOTS-that have been proven to save lives . . . at her age she is about 50% more likely to die from flu when not vaccinated. One of the first things a medical student learns in their first or second year bacteriology and immunology course is that it takes ten to fourteen days for the body to build antibodies to a vaccinial agent for the first time, shorter for those “primed” by prior vaccination or past exposure, which is why the young can be more vulnerable to new strains, as with the pandemic of 1918. Horror stories about “getting the flu” after receiving a flu shot have to be countered with scientific reasoning and that lag effect kept in mind, especially for first time recipients and those waiting until the season peaks. I believe that the CDC and other medical sources do not emphasis that enough and are more likely to be seduced by naturopaths and others making false and unverified claims and based on errant data or on supposition.

    I get my flu shot every year. I do not know anyone that has died after getting immunized- Sharon, could other physical ailments be the reason for those deaths? As a senior, I do have friends with diabetes and congestive heart failure. I don’t eat fast food- am a vegetarian for personal reasons.I heartily endorse herd immunization.

    I am an active 84 year old, and I had had this flu 2x times already. I keep coming up with beginning symptoms.
    what do you suggest?

    As a physician I would state that the most important symptom which should make you think of the flu is the myalgias – muscle pain. If you get this stay home do not spread the disease. Take your temperatures if they get higher than 102 you need to see a doctor. Or at least call your doctor or let someone know you have a high fever. Drink lots of fluid. If you can document when your symptoms started Tamiflu is supposed to be given in the 1st two days of the illness. After that it is not considered very useful. Pay what it costs for the Tamiflu – your life is worth more than the cost of a single drug. It could make you sicker as someone has stated. One thing I am VERY angry about is that poor press the flu has received this season. We all still remember 9/11. About 3000 peopled died that one day.
    The levels of influenza-like illnesses being reported now are as high as the peak of the swine flu epidemic in 2009, and exceed the last severe seasonal flu outbreak in 2003 when a new strain started circulating, said Anne Schuchat, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s acting director. Swine flu, which swept the globe in 2009 and 2010, sickened 60.8 million Americans, hospitalized 274,304 and killed 12,469, according to CDC data. Deaths from the current outbreak will likely far outstrip those of the 2009-2010 season. In FORTUNAE magazine they are estimating flu deaths at 4000 per week. That’s a lot. We only hear about the peds cases. In Delaware the number is less but there were an equal amount of elderly people dying as peds cases. I would say that baby boomers are at risk. We need to be telling people wash their hands and use the N95 respiratory mask if you are working around these patients. Also give the masks to the patients who have documented flu.
    4000 deaths a week are preventable! WASH YOUR HANDS. STAY OUT OF PUBLIC PLACES. WASH YOUR HANDS.

    I am 60 years old and get a flu shot every year. My physician advised me to take double doses of Vitamin D, which supports a healthy immune system. The last time I had the flu was the mid-80s – my husband and I caught it at the same time and it was horrible! As soon as flu vaccines became widely available, I started getting one every year, and I have not had the flu in more than 30 years. That’s as simple as it gets. I do not believe that flu vaccines make people sick, and those who would argue otherwise are probably just making excuses because they don’t want to get a little shot in the arm.

    I am a chronic pain patient with Lupus, asthma, and stage 3b CKD, whose pain management doctor chooses to strictly enforce the CDC Opioid Guidelines. This means I must present myself at his office, which is in a medical clinic, every month. After successfully avoiding the flu for over 10 years, I got a severe case this year. How can I protect myself when I have no choice but to go where there are so many sick people? They have a designated area for sick patients. It is two chairs in the shared waiting room. Not enough chairs and not enough isolation.

    I think although we share commonalities, each person is different. I am 61 and each time I’ve gotten the flu shot, 3 to 4 months later I got sick and it turned into bronchitis or pneumonia and knocked me out for 6 to 8 weeks. Then the cough lingered for another 3 to 4 months until the last time that happened and I found a natural herbal remedy to kick the cough out of my system. I also have mild asthma. I am obsessive about washing my hands, staying away from others who are ill, using antiseptic wipes all year long. When I don’t get the flu shot, I am fine. Free of colds, flu, other ailments. I’ve been well for more than 9 years now. Another thing the CDC and doctors forget to mention is that your beliefs and attitude play a major role in your health.

    Hello everyone!
    I have not gotten the flu since 2005, nor do I get the flu vaccine. All of us have an immune system to protect us and provide a natural immunity to diseases and viruses, especially the flu. Use common sense…ie; washing hands, covering your face when you sneeze, getting plenty of rest, stay away from sugar, processed foods, get some exercise, fresh air & sunshine. All of these are
    very beneficial. Have the doctor check Vitamin D levels. During colder months our D levels are lower which makes us more susceptible.
    If you are immune compromised, wear a mask in crowded areas.
    Hope this helps!

    Promoting flu vaccine positively: Some studies show as many as 23% of the population is needle-phobic; some greatly so. Severe needle phobia is a non-treatable intense fear that the CDC needs to recognize and think through if they really want to increase the percent of the population getting the flu vaccine. If you combine the 23% of the trypanophobics (needle phobics) with the greater number of parents and kids that have fears of needles – beyond the anti-vaccination crowd – you can increase the number beyond 23% because parents with phobias may not bring their kids for shots. Just one phobic kid or parent in the family with an intense enough fear can sometimes discourage the rest of the family from getting vaccinated. Rather than continually pounding the hammer that everyone must get vaccinated, why doesn’t the CDC put an effort into promoting alternatives, and testing alternatives, to the traditional injection? In the UK the nasal vaccine will now be promoted for seniors. Why hasn’t the CDC done this, and why isn’t the CDC promoting research to show how the nasal vaccine can be reasonably effective in seniors and other age groups in the US? The intradermal vaccine was distributed with very limited availability for only a few years, and only the few that took the effort to learn about it, and find it were able to try it. Even then, nurses who never had used it would complain about how it was difficult to administer and caused bruising. Why didn’t CDC step in to try to promote the positive aspects of the intradermal vaccine and promote greater distribution of it rather than letting it wither on the vine? The PharmaJet is now available and if promoted correctly it might help to get some people with trypanophobia in for a flu vaccination. But it cannot be found anywhere in the US other than very select location. Again, is CDC promoting it, or trying to encourage testing of effectiveness, or perhaps even testing whether persons with needle phobia would value it or other non-IM needle vaccines? This type of effort falls within CDC’s mandate, but they need to take the initiate beyond what they are doing now. If the CDC takes a hard look at what they can do to encourage the public to get vaccinated, and considers the large portion of the population with an aversion to needles, I am sure they can develop better methods for how newer vaccination methods can be promoted, and how those vaccines can be better distributed before they disappear through lack of coordinated promotion. A smart marketing approach is needed, and it needs to include ways to foster promotion and broader distribution of non-needle alternatives. Thank you.

    I noticed your article and read it. I just loved the way you wrote.
    Thanks for the given article.

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Page last reviewed: February 16, 2018
Page last updated: February 16, 2018