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Influenza (Flu)

WHAT IS INFLUENZA (ALSO CALLED 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. Everyone 6 months of age and older should get a flu vaccine by the end of October, if possible.

Take Action to Prevent the Flu photo of a woman blowing her nose with a flu shot, box of tissue, and prescription in three circles.

Frequently Asked Questions

Adults can get a flu shot without a prescription at most local pharmacies. Click here to use our pharmacy locator. Then use the Advanced Search and select flu shots.

When you go to the pharmacy, ask them to bill University of Maryland Health Advantage. But, be sure to take your photo ID and your University of Maryland Health Advantage member ID card.  Please note that you must go to a pharmacy counter and not a pharmacy clinic.

  • Children between the ages of 6 months and 5 years old

  • Adults greater than 50 years old

  • Women who are or are planning to be pregnant during the flu season

  • Individuals who are of American Indians/Alaska Native ancestries

  • People with one or more of these conditions:

    • Cancer

    • Cardiac disorder except isolated high blood pressure

    • Chronic lung disease, including Asthma

    • Heart Disease, including a prior stroke

    • Blood disorder

    • HIV/AIDS

    • Metabolic disorder, including Diabetes

    • Neurologic disorder

    • Renal disorder

  • Residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities

  • Individuals who are extremely obese (BMI ≥40)

  • Individuals who are caregivers or in contact with one or more of the following:

    • Health care personnel, including students who have contact with patients

    • Medical emergency-response workers

    • Employees of nursing home and long-term care facilities who have contact with residents

    • Household contacts and caregivers of anyone who meet the categories listed above.

People who have the flu often feel some or all of these signs and symptoms:

  • Fever* or feeling feverish/chills
  • Cough Sore throat Runny or stuffy nose
  • Muscle or body aches Headaches Fatigue (very tired)
  • 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.

Most experts believe that 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. Less often, 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. 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. Some people, such as older people, young children, and people with certain health conditions, are at high risk for serious flu complications. The best way to prevent the flu is by getting vaccinated each year.

The flu and the common cold are both respiratory illnesses but they are caused by different viruses. Because these two types of illnesses have similar symptoms, it can be difficult to tell the difference between them based on symptoms alone. In general, the flu is worse than the common cold, and symptoms are more common and intense. Colds are usually milder than the flu. People with colds are more likely to have a runny or stuffy nose. Colds generally do not result in serious health problems, such as pneumonia, bacterial infections, or hospitalizations. Flu can have very serious associated complications.

Because colds and flu share many symptoms, it can be difficult (or even impossible) to tell the difference between them based on symptoms alone. Special tests that usually must be done within the first few days of illness can tell if a person has the flu.

The symptoms of flu can include fever or feeling feverish/chills, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches and fatigue (tiredness). Cold symptoms are usually milder than the symptoms of flu. People with colds are more likely to have a runny or stuffy nose. Colds generally do not result in serious health problems.

Source: https://www.cdc.gov/flu/professionals/acip/2017-18summary.htm and https://secure.medicalletter.org/