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Flu Overview

In an effort to help preserve the well-being of the Ohio University community, the content of this site provides answers to frequently asked questions about the influenza virus and the University's response to it.

What is the flu?

It is a contagious respiratory illness caused by an influenza virus. The flu normally occurs from late fall until early spring. The symptoms range from mild to severe and in some cases can cause death. The best way to prevent the flu is to get a flu vaccine every year.

How does the flu spread?

Flu viruses are spread mainly from person to person through coughing or sneezing by people with influenza. Sometimes people may become infected by touching something, such as a surface or object, with flu viruses on it and then touching their mouth, eyes or nose.

What are the symptoms?

The symptoms of flu virus in people include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. A significant number of people who have been infected with the H1N1 virus also have reported diarrhea and vomiting. While most people who have been sick have recovered without needing medical treatment, hospitalizations and deaths from infection have occurred.

How many people are affected by the flu?
  • Five to 20 percent of the population get the flu each year
  • More than 200,000 people are hospitalized from flu-related complications each year
  • Deaths each year range from 3,000 to 49,000 with an average of 23,600 deaths each year
How long can a person spread the flu to others?

You may be able to pass on the flu virus to someone else before you know you are sick, as well as while you are sick. People infected with seasonal and H1N1 flu shed the virus and may be able to infect others from one day before getting sick to five to seven days after. This period can be longer in some people, especially children and people with weakened immune systems and in people infected with the H1N1 virus.

How can I tell the difference between the cold and the flu?

The different symptoms are outlined in the following chart:

  Cold H1N1 Flu Seasonal Flu
Fever Adults, uncommon Children, more likely present, >100F,(as high as 105F or more) characteristic, high (102-104F); lasts 3-4 days
Headache rare common common
Sore Throat common common sometimes
Cough, chest discomfort mild to moderate; hacking cough common; can become severe common; can become severe
Runny or stuffy nose common present sometimes
Sneezing common present sometimes
General aches, pains slight present usual; often severe
Fatigue, weakness quite mild extreme can last up to 2-3 weeks
Chills not present present present
Diarrhea/Vomiting uncommon present not present
Extreme exhaustion never usual usual
Adults >65 any age group uncommon present
Adults <65 any age group present present
Age of highest incidence any age group 5-24 <5 and >65