Influenza: What You Need to Know

The influenza season is here. This site is designed to help you understand influenza and what you can do to protect yourself and your family.

What is influenza?

Influenza infection ("the flu") is caused by influenza viruses and is very contagious. Symptoms typically include high fever, cough, muscle and body aches, fatigue, headache and sore throat. People with the flu feel like staying in bed. Although the flu is primarily a respiratory infection, sometimes general aches, fatigue and just lousy feeling are the main symptoms.

Is influenza dangerous?

Each year, thousands of people die of seasonal influenza-related causes in the United States. Young children, the elderly and those whose immune systems are compromised are most vulnerable.

What is Emory Healthcare doing to protect its patients from the flu?

Emory Healthcare is committed to providing a safe environment for our patients and their families. Therefore, we have made seasonal influenza vaccination mandatory for all of our health care workers, volunteers, vendors and students.

When you enter an Emory Healthcare facility, you will notice hand hygiene kiosks throughout the system. Proper hand hygiene - washing your hands with soap and warm water or using an alcohol-based hand cleanser - is another way to prevent the spread of the flu.

What can you do to protect yourself from getting the flu?

To protect yourself from the flu, get the flu vaccine. Visit the seasonal flu vaccine page for more information on the seasonal flu vaccine.

In addition, practice hand hygiene at all appropriate times. If you get sick, cover your cough and clean your hands frequently to help protect others. 

How can I distinguish between the cold and the flu?
  • FLU often begins with a sudden onset of high fever, muscle and body aches, fatigue, cough and headache. People with the flu feel like staying in bed.
  • The common COLD, caused by many other viruses, has a gradual onset of stuffy nose, sneezing, sore throat and cough.
  • The flu can sometimes be mild and be mistaken for a cold. Many health care workers with the flu still go to work.
Is upset stomach a symptom associated with the flu?

Many people associate a "stomach virus" with influenza. However, influenza does not typically include stomach-related symptoms.

How is the flu spread?

The main way that flu viruses are spread is from person to person in respiratory droplets from coughs and sneezes. This is called "droplet spread." This can happen directly when droplets from a cough or sneeze of an infected person travel - usually less than six feet - through the air and land on the mouth or nose of people nearby. Droplet spread also occurs indirectly when you touch a contaminated object, like a doorknob or telephone, and then touch your mouth or nose.

How long can the influenza virus remain on objects (such as doorknobs)?

Studies have shown that the influenza virus can survive on environmental surfaces and can infect a person for two to eight hours after being deposited on the surface.

How long can an infected person spread the flu virus to others?

People infected with influenza shed the virus and may be able to infect others from one day before getting sick to five to seven days after onset of symptoms. This can be longer in some people, especially children and people with weakened immune systems.

Questions About Influenza?

Email influenza@emoryhealthcare.org.