Influenza, or "flu," is a highly contagious respiratory illness caused by flu viruses that infect the nose, throat and sometimes the lungs. While flu viruses can be detected year-round in the United States, they are most common during the fall and winter, with activity increasing in October and peaking between December and February.1
Each year, an estimated 3-11% of the U.S. population gets the flu, and it can be very serious, resulting in hospitalization or even death.2,3 During the 2019 - 2020 flu season in the U.S., the CDC estimated that flu was associated with approximately:4
Flu symptoms start abruptly and are severe, whereas cold symptoms come on gradually.10 Common flu symptoms include fever or chills, cough, sore throat, muscle or body aches, runny nose, headaches and fatigue.10
Over-the-counter (OTC) cold medicines can temporarily relieve flu symptoms, but antiviral treatments fight against flu viruses in your body to get you on a quicker path to recovery.12
The flu is highly contagious and is transmitted when someone coughs, sneezes or talks.10 It can also live on some surfaces for up to 48 hours, and can spread if someone touches the surface and then touches their mouth or nose.6
Most healthy adults may be able to spread the flu as early as one day before their symptoms develop and up to 5-7 days after becoming sick.3
Most patients who get the flu recover in 3 to 14 days, but flu can cause complications that could be life threatening. For high-risk patients, dangers of the flu are even greater and can lead to serious complications, make chronic health problems worse, or even cause death.8,9
The CDC recommends that all eligible persons aged six months and older should be vaccinated annually. Talk to a healthcare provider to see if it is right for you.7
Routinely clean surfaces, steer clear of people who are sick, cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze and wash hands frequently.6,11
Flu antivirals have been shown to shorten the duration of flu symptoms and are most effective if taken within 48 hours of symptom onset.5
If you experience sudden flu symptoms, call your doctor within 48 hours to learn about treatment options.
Flu Connect is a Genentech-sponsored Alexa Skill developed to answer common flu-related questions such as: how long the flu lasts, the difference between COVID-19 and the flu, the difference between the common cold and the flu, what common flu symptoms are, and how to find an urgent care clinic near you.
Click here to enable it for your Amazon Alexa.* Once enabled, initiate a session with Flu Connect by saying to your Alexa device, “Alexa, open Flu Connect."
*Flu Connect is free to enable on Amazon Alexa devices.
1 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2021, September 28). The Flu Season. Retrieved February 4, 2022, from: https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/season/flu-season.htm.
2 Tokars JI, Olsen SJ, Reed C. Seasonal incidence of symptomatic influenza in the United States. Clin Infect Dis. 2018;66: 1611-8.
3 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021, August ). Key Facts About Influenza (Flu). Retrieved February 4, 2022, from: https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/keyfacts.htm.
4 Center for Disease Control and Prevention (2021, October 1). Estimated influenza illnesses, medical visits, hospitalizations, and deaths in the United States—2019-2020 influenza season. Retrieved February 4, 2022, from: https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/burden/2019-2020.html
5 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2021, October 15). Flu Treatment. Retrieved February 4, 2022, from: https://www.cdc.gov/flu/treatment/index.html.
6 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2018). Cleaning to Prevent the Flu. Retrieved February 4, 2022, from: https://www.cdc.gov/flu/resource-center/images/multi-language-pdfs/contamination_cleaning_english_508.pdf.
7 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021, October 27). Get Vaccinated. Retrieved February 3, 2022, from https://www.cdc.gov/flu/prevent/vaccinations.htm.
8 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2021, November 18). People at higher risk of flu complications. Retrieved February 4, 2022, from: https://www.cdc.gov/flu/highrisk/index.htm.
9 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2020, August 31). Clinical signs and symptoms of influenza. Retrieved February 4, 2022, from: https://www.cdc.gov/flu/professionals/acip/clinical.htm.
10 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2021, September 16). Cold Versus Flu. Retrieved February 4, 2022, from: https://www.cdc.gov/flu/symptoms/coldflu.htm.
11 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2021, August 26). Healthy Habits to Help Protect Against Flu. Retrieved February 4, 2022, from: https://www.cdc.gov/flu/prevent/actions-prevent-flu.htm.
12 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2021, August 31). What You Should Know About Flu Antiviral Drugs. Retrieved February 4, 2022, from: https://www.cdc.gov/flu/treatment/whatyoushould.htm.
Learn about common perceptions and misconceptions with managing the flu and the importance of treatment in the first 48 hours.
Mark Eisner talks about his work in infectious disease and what the future may have in store for the flu.