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Influenza (Flu)

Influenza (flu) is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. It can cause mild to severe illness. Serious outcomes of flu infection can result in hospitalization or death. Each year, thousands of people are hospitalized for flu-related illness. Some people, such as older people, young children, and people with certain health conditions, are at high risk of serious flu complications. Therefore, it is important that people aged 6 months and older get a flu shot annually.

Flu Symptoms

Flu can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death. Flu is different from a cold. Flu usually comes on suddenly. People who have flu often feel some or all these symptoms:

  • fever (in most but not all cases) or feeling feverish/chills
  • cough
  • sore throat
  • runny or stuffy nose
  • body aches
  • headache
  • chills
  • fatigue (tiredness)
  • vomiting and diarrhea (more common in children than adults)

How Flu Spreads

Flu viruses spread mainly by tiny 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, nose or eyes.

Period of Contagiousness

You may be able to pass on flu to someone else before you know you are sick, as well as while you are sick.

  • People with flu are most contagious in the first 3-4 days after their illness begins.
  • Some otherwise 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 with flu viruses for an even longer time.

This is why it is important to stay home when you are sick to prevent the spread of the virus to other people.

Onset of Symptoms

The time from when a person is exposed and infected with flu to when symptoms begin is about 2 days but can range from about 1 to 4 days.

Complications of Flu

Complications of flu can include bacterial pneumonia, ear infections, sinus infections and worsening of chronic medical conditions, such as congestive heart failure, asthma, or diabetes.

People at High Risk from Flu

Anyone can get the flu and serious problems related to flu can happen at any age, but some people are at high risk of developing serious flu-related complications if they get sick. This includes people 65 years and older, people of any age with certain chronic medical conditions (such as asthma, diabetes, or heart disease), pregnant women, and children younger than 5 years.

Preventing Flu

The first and most important step in preventing flu is to get a flu vaccine each year. Flu vaccine has been shown to reduce flu related illnesses and the risk of serious flu complications that can result in hospitalization or even death.

Everyday preventive actions - like staying away from people who are sick, covering coughs and sneezes, and frequent handwashing - help slow the spread of germs that cause respiratory illnesses, like flu, and help prevent you from getting sick.

Get a free flu shot

Free flu shots are available in the health center, Monday through Friday, 8:30 am - noon and 1:00 pm - 4:30 pm. No appointment is necessary. Flu shots are limited to current UTA students only.

A high-dose trivalent flu shot is also available for students aged 65 or older.

We recommend that you get vaccinated by October 31 to ensure your body has built up immunity prior to flu season.

Diagnosing Flu

It can be difficult to distinguish flu from other viral or bacterial respiratory illnesses based on symptoms alone. There are tests available to diagnose flu in the health center. Please call 817-272-2771 to make an appointment to see one of our healthcare providers.

Treating Flu

There are influenza antiviral drugs that can be used to treat flu illness within two days of symptoms. They can lessen symptoms and shorten the time you are sick.

What are the emergency warning signs of flu sickness for 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

If you experience any of these symptoms with flu, please call 817-272-3003 (if on campus) or 911 and/or go to the nearest emergency room.

Content source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention