All About Flu

The Flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. Common symptoms include fever and chills, body aches, headache, fatigue, runny nose, sore throat. The flu can range from a very mild illness to a severe life-threatening illness, especially in the very young and elderly. In general, flu is worse than the common cold, and symptoms are more intense.

The flu is spread through respiratory droplets. A person with flu may be contagious for up to a week, but usually that risk decreases 24 hours after the fever disappears. You can prevent the flu by washing your hands regularly, covering coughs and sneezes, and steering clear of contact with sick people. The best way to prevent flu is by getting a flu vaccine each year. Everyone (unless allergic) over 6 months of age, even those with egg allergy, can now get the flu vaccine.

Flu is diagnosed with clinical symptoms and/or a flu swab. Tamiflu, an antiviral treatment, if started within 48 hours on symptom onset, can help you feel better faster. Otherwise you can take OTC symptomatic treatments such as antihistamines, decongestants, and pain relievers.

The flu shot will not give you the flu. There is an inactivated (killed) virus present in the vaccine so it is not able to give you the virus. What some people do have after the vaccines are a few flu-type symptoms such as fever and body aches. If these occur, they do not last long and can be treated with OTC medications. It also takes 2 weeks for vaccine immunity to be built up. When strains in the vaccine are a good match with the ones that are circulating, vaccinated individuals are 60 percent less likely to catch the flu than people who aren’t vaccinated.

The trivalent vaccine for 2018-2019 contains:

  • A/Michigan/45/2015 (H1N1) pdm09-like virus
  • A/Singapore/INFIMH-16–0019/2016 A(H3N2) -like virus
  • B/Colorado/06/2017-like (B/Victoria lineage) virus

The quadrivalent vaccine also contains:

  • B/Phuket/3073/2013-like (B/Yamagata lineage) virus 

For more information on Flu vaccines, visit the CDC at:

By Chloe Kilman, MD