About the flu
What is influenza (aka 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.
Can the flu be prevented?
Yes. The single best way to prevent the flu is to get a flu vaccine. The CDC recommends that everyone 6 months and older should get a flu vaccine each year.
UW students can receive a flu shot from UHS at no cost. Call 608-265-5600 to make an appointment. UW employees should contact their health care provider.
Signs and symptoms of the flu
Flu or Cold?
In general, the flu is worse than the common cold. Symptoms such as fever, body aches, tiredness, and cough are more common and intense with the flu. People with colds are more likely to have a runny or stuffy nose.
People who have the flu often feel some or all of these signs and symptoms:
- A 100℉ or higher fever or feeling feverish (not everyone with the flu has a fever)
- Sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Muscle or body aches
- Fatigue (very tired)
- Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults.
Think you might have the flu? Find out what to do »
Most people who the flu will recover in a few days to less than two weeks, but some people will develop complications (such as pneumonia) as a result of the flu, some of which can be life-threatening and result in death. People at high-risk for complications include young children. adults age 65 and older, pregnant women, and people with certain chronic medical conditions.
How the flu spreads
The flu spreads most easily among people who live, work, and play near other people, such as in residence halls, classrooms, and crowded social settings.
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. 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.
Period of contagiousness
You may be able to pass on 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 systems, might be able to infect others for an even longer time.
What medicines are available to treat it?
Because viruses cannot be destroyed by antibiotics, treatment with antibiotic medication is ineffective in the treatment of the flu. Antiviral therapy is available, but due to its limited effectiveness in healthy young people and side effects with the medication, routine treatment is not recommended by the CDC in healthy young people.