Influenza (flu) is caused by a virus that gets into the nose, throat, and lungs. Flu spreads easily from one person to another when a person sick with the flu virus coughs, sneezes, or talks. The flu usually occurs in the winter in the US, but the time when it begins to appear in the community varies from year to year. Flu season can begin as early as October and last into May.

How can I prevent the flu?

Vaccination is the best way to prevent the flu. Flu viruses change and new strains of flu often appear. The flu vaccine is made to protect against the strains of flu most likely to make people sick each year. This is why the flu vaccine must be repeated every year. People should get the flu vaccine as soon as supplies are available. It takes a couple of weeks to get protection from the vaccine. 

Who should get flu vaccine?

Polk County Division of Public Health encourages everyone to get vaccinated against the flu – especially children ages five and younger, and adults 65 and older – because they’re at greater risk of becoming seriously ill from flu.

They also advise that frontline workers, caregivers, first responders, and people with underlying health conditions get a flu shot.

In North Carolina, flu infections are most common from late fall to early spring. The following precautions should be taken to protect against the spread of flu and other viruses like COVID-19:

  • Stay home when sick until fever-free for at least 24 hours

  • Wash hands frequently with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, rub your hands with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. 

  • Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue. Throw the tissue away promptly and wash your hands.

  • Continue to practice the 3Ws--wearing a face covering over your nose and mouth, waiting six feet apart, and washing hands often can help slow the spread of COVID-19 and the flu. 

Where can I get a flu vaccine?

  • Your health care provider 
  • Many pharmacies 
  • Urgent Cares 
  • Some grocery stores and churches. 
  • Some employers offer flu shot clinics
  • Other community flu shot locations near you: Vaccine Finder

How can I keep from spreading the flu if I have it?

  • Stay home when sick. Do not go to work, to school, or run errands when you are sick. Keep children home from school and daycare when they are sick.  
  • DO go to the doctor if you need to go. 
  • Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue. Throw the used tissue away and wash your hands. No tissue? Cough or sneeze into your sleeve. 
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after sneezing or coughing. If soap and water are not available, rub your hands with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.  
  • Stay away from other people. If possible, sleep in a separate room. 

What are antiviral drugs?

Flu antiviral drugs can make your illness milder and make you feel better faster. Antiviral drugs are prescribed by a doctor and must be taken soon after symptoms begin to be effective.