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Flu.IN.gov > Individuals & Families > About the Flu About the Flu

What is Influenza?

Influenza (flu) is a contagious illness caused by influenza viruses that infect the respiratory tract. The illness can be mild to severe and can be fatal in some people. Although anyone can become infected with influenza, the elderly, young children, or anyone with other health problems are at greater risk from developing more severe illness or suffer from the complications of influenza, such as pneumonia. Every year, more than 36,000 Americans die from influenza-related complications.

How is influenza spread?

Influenza is spread by respiratory droplets from close contact with infected persons or contact with contaminated surfaces or objects. Infection can occur when influenza viruses contact the eyes, mouth, or nose, and possibly through inhaling droplets from a sneeze or cough. Sometimes people may become infected by touching surfaces or objects contaminated with influenza viruses and then touching their eyes, mouth, or nose. Infected adults may be able to spread the virus to others about one day before they develop symptoms and up to five days after becoming sick. That means that you may be able to spread the flu to someone else before you even know you are sick, as well as while you are sick.

What are the symptoms of influenza?

Symptoms usually include:

This strain of Influenza is similar to the strain of Influenza A that infects swine populations, and was therefore commonly called the 'swine flu'. However, there are several different names including: pandemic 09, Novel influenza A, A, 2009 Flu, and 2009 Influenza A, among others. It will be referenced as 2009 Influenza A on this website.

How do I know if I have influenza?

A health care professional usually diagnoses influenza by looking at your symptoms. Sometimes your nose will be swabbed and tested for the influenza virus.

How is influenza treated?

Influenza is usually treated with fever reducers, throat or cough drops, water, and plenty of rest. If the diagnosis is made at the very beginning of the illness, a doctor may prescribe antiviral medication.

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