Diseases Home > More Details About Influenza


Besides the rapid start of the outbreaks and the large numbers of people affected, influenza is an important disease because it can cause serious complications. Most people who get the flu get better within a week, although they may have a lingering cough and tire easily for a while longer. However, for elderly people, newborn babies, and people with certain chronic illnesses, influenza and its complications can be life threatening.

How Is Influenza Spread?

You can get the flu if someone around you who has the disease coughs or sneezes. You can also get influenza simply by touching a surface, like a telephone or doorknob, that has been contaminated by someone who has influenza. The viruses can pass through the air and enter your body through your nose or mouth, or if you've touched a contaminated surface, they can pass from your hand to your nose or mouth. You are at greatest risk of getting infected in highly populated areas, such as in crowded living conditions and in schools.

Current Statistics About Influenza

It is estimated that 10 percent to 20 percent of Americans come down with the flu during each influenza season, which typically lasts from November to March. Children are 2 to 3 times more likely than adults to get sick with influenza, and they frequently spread the virus to others. Although most people recover from the illness, it is estimated that in the United States more than 100,000 people are hospitalized and about 36,000 people die from the flu and its complications every year.


The following are some important facts to remember about influenza:
  • Influenza can be dangerous for people who are 65 years of age and older
  • It can be prevented
  • An influenza shot is necessary each fall for people in high-risk groups
  • The shot is covered by Medicare
  • The shot is safe and it cannot cause the disease
  • The influenza shot and the pneumococcal vaccine can be given at the same time.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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