Influenza, a highly contagious respiratory infection, affects millions of people each winter. Transmission most often occurs when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Although it is typically a mild disease in healthy children, young adults, and middle-aged people, influenza (also called the flu) can cause serious complications in certain people, and some of these complications can be life-threatening.
In addition to the potentially serious complications, the flu is different from the common cold in a few other important ways. For example, people with colds rarely get fevers, headaches, or suffer from the extreme exhaustion that flu viruses can cause.
(For more information, click Influenza. This full-length article takes a closer look at this topic, including an explanation of why families with school-age children tend to have more infections than other families.)