Facts about flu

AMERICAN RED CROSS Modified: January 8, 2013 at 8:53 am •  Published: January 8, 2013

 Influenza, also known as the flu, is a contagious respiratory disease caused by different strains of viruses. Flu viruses spread from person to person when people who are infected cough or sneeze. Adults may be able to infect others one day before getting symptoms and as long as five days after getting sick.

Know the Difference: Types of Flu Outbreaks

 Seasonal Flu — A contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza (flu) viruses occurring every year. It affects an average of 5 percent to 20 percent of the U.S. population by causing mild to severe illness, and in some instances can lead to death.

Epidemic — The rapid spread of a disease that affects some or many people in a community or region at the same time.

Pandemic — An outbreak of a disease that affects large numbers of people throughout the world and spreads rapidly.

H1N1 Influenza (swine flu) — H1N1 influenza is a respiratory disease of pigs caused by type A influenza viruses that cause regular outbreaks in pigs. People do not normally get H1N1 influenza, but human infections can and do happen. H1N1 influenza viruses have been reported to spread from person-to-person.

Avian Influenza — Commonly known as bird flu, this strain of influenza virus is naturally occurring in birds. Wild birds can carry the virus and may not get sick from it; however, domestic birds may become infected by the virus and often die from it.

Are you considered high risk for flu-related complications?

You are at an increased risk if you are:

Age 50 or older
 
Pregnant
 
Living with a chronic medical condition
 
A child, age 6 months and older
 
Living with or caring for anyone at high risk

If you are at high risk, have your vaccinations updated every year, as directed by your physician.