Seasonal Influenza Information
Influenza, commonly known as "the flu" is an acute respiratory illness caused by the influenza virus. It is spread through the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes and is very contagious.
Flu symptoms can last a week or more and interfere significantly with school and work. Most people recover completely but, unlike the common cold, influenza may cause severe illness with complications, such as pneumonia. In an average year, 114,000 people are hospitalized with the flu and 20,000 die of complications.
- Who is at risk?
- What are the symptoms?
- What can I do to prevent the flu?
- In addition to getting the shot, how else can I protect myself?
- What should I do if I think I have the flu?
- What about medicines to treat the flu?
- Where can I get more information about the flu?
- Flu Shot Facts
- Is it a cold or the flu?
- Respiratory etiquette
Characteristic: high fever
General aches and pains
Usual; often severe
Can last 2 -3 weeks
Early and prominent
Annual vaccination; antiviral
Antiviral medicines -
Who is at risk? Anyone can get the flu. People who live in crowded conditions, such as residence halls, have a higher risk of exposure to all respiratory illnesses, including the flu.
The elderly and people with weakened immune systems are at the highest risk of complications. People with diabetes, chronic heart disease and respiratory disease, such as asthma, are also at greater risk of complications.
People who should especially consider getting the flu vaccine include:
- People with chronic medical conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, asthma or other chronic respiratory conditions
- People with weakened immune systems due to medical conditions or certain medications
- People living in crowded conditions (such as residence halls or apartments) who are at higher risk of exposure to the virus
- People whose lifestyle include excessive stress, inadequate sleep and/or nutrition
What are symptoms of the flu?
- Sudden onset of fever
- Headache and body aches
- Dry cough, sore throat, runny nose
- Eye irritation and pain with eye movement
- Excess tiredness and weakness
If you are not sure if you have the flu or some other viral or respiratory infection, please make an appointment to be evaluated by a health care provider.
Call the Student Health Service at 231-7331 to schedule an appointment.
What can I do to prevent the flu? Your best defense against influenza is to get vaccinated. The flu vaccine is safe and effective. The flu vaccine is made from killed flu virus and cannot give you the flu. Because the virus changes each year, the make-up of each year's flu vaccine changes too, necessitating annual flu shots for protection.
Because flu "season" usually peaks each year between December and March, we usually recommend getting the flu shot in the fall. As with any other vaccine, flu vaccine may not protect 100% of those exposed to the virus.
In addition to getting the flu shot, how else can I protect myself and others?
- Stay as healthy as you can. Get plenty of rest and do not smoke. If you drink, limit your intake to no more than 1-2 drinks in one sitting. Drink plenty of water, eat a balanced diet, engage in physical activity, and try to manage your stress.
- Avoid close contact. Avoid close contact with people who are sick. When you are sick, keep your distance from others to protect them from getting sick, too.
- Stay home when you are sick. If possible, stay home from work, school and errands when you are sick. You will help prevent others from catching your illness.
- Cover your mouth and nose. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. It may prevent those around you from getting sick. If you have no tissue, cough or sneeze into your sleeve, not your hands.
- Clean your hands. Washing your hands often will help protect you from germs.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs are often spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches his or her eyes, nose or mouth.
What should I do if I think I have the flu?
- Drink plenty of fluids (non-caffeinated, non-alcoholic) to prevent dehydration
- Rest to promote healing
- Gargle with salt water (1/2 tsp. per 8 oz. warm water) to soothe a sore throat
- Take over-the-counter (OTC) acetaminophen or ibuprofen as directed for fever and aches
- Take over-the-counter decongestants as directed for runny nose
If you are concerned about your illness, your symptoms are severe, or if you are at high risk for complications, you should seek care from a health care provider. Call Student Health Service at 231-7331 for an appointment.
What about medicines to treat the flu? There is no cure for the flu. Antibiotics are of no use because they do not work on viral illnesses. There are antiviral drugs that have been approved for treating the flu. They reduce the duration of symptoms by about 1 day if taken within 2 days of the onset of the flu. These medications may be prescribed if your physician feels they are appropriate.
If a person has an illness caused by another kind of virus or by bacteria, the medicines will not be effective. If you have questions, please make an appointment with a health care provider.
Call the Student Health Service at 231-7331 to schedule an appointment.
Where can I get more information about the flu?
Additional information about influenza and the flu vaccine is available at the Student Health Service. You may call 231-7331 to speak to a health care provider.
Here are some additional links:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
US Department of Health and Human Services - Flu Fact Sheet
Flu Shot Facts
The flu is NOT just a bad cold. Influenza (flu) is a disease of the lungs, which can lead to pneumonia. Each year about 114,000 people in the United States are hospitalized and about 36,000 people die because of flu complications. Most who die are older than 65. But children younger than two are as likely as those older than 65 to be hospitalized because of the flu.
Four hundred North Dakotans die annually from complications of flu and pneumonia. Each year, more than 90 percent of North Dakotans who die from complications of flu and pneumonia are age 65 and older. For this group, the influenze vaccine is 50 to 60 percent effective in preventing hospitalization, and 80 percent effective in preventing death.
The flu shot can NOT give you the flu. Inactivated influenza vaccine is made from an influenza virus that has been killed and cannot give you the flu. An alternative to the influenza shot is the live attenuated influenza vaccine (FluMist). Please consult your physician for questions regarding FluMist.
The very old and sick are NOT the only ones who need the flu shot. Even if you are not at high risk of complications, you should get a flu shot to prevent the flu and to protect those you live with, friends, relatives and co-workers.
December is NOT too late to get a flu shot. The flu shot can be given before or during the flu season. While the best time to get a flu shot is October or November, a flu shot later in the flu season will still protect you against the flu.
The Flu Shot is your best line of defense! Get yours today.
We encourage people to contact us by phone or in person regarding personal health problems or appointments at the Student Health Service, rather than via email. The nature of email is such that we cannot guarantee the confidentiality of your correspondence. Moreover, we cannot guarantee that we will read your email right away or respond in a timely fashion. For specific questions regarding your health, prescriptions or appointments, please call 701-231-7331 or visit us at the NDSU Student Health Service in the Wellness Center.