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Sanford Infectious Disease
Q&A: What can I do to avoid catching the flu this year?
Influenza, a.k.a. the flu, is an infection of the nose, throat, lungs caused by influenza viruses. Influenza is a contagious virus spread from one person to another by coughing, sneezing and talking. Flu symptoms include fever, chills, muscle aches, congestion, cough, runny nose and difficulty breathing. The main threat from influenza is that it lowers your body's ability to fight other infections. Because influenza viruses are contagious, it's important to take everyday steps to protect you and your family against seasonal flu viruses:
Wash your hands
Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. If soap and water are not available, alcohol-based hand cleansers are also effective.
Coughing and sneezing
Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. If you don't have a tissue, use your elbow rather than your hands to catch the droplets that come from your mouth and nose.
Get a flu shot
The single most effective precaution to avoid catching and spreading the flu is to get a vaccination—either the shot or the nose spray version of the vaccination, know as FluMist. Generally speakinig, anyone who wants to reduce the chances of getting the flu should get vaccinated. Certain people should get vaccinated every year because they are at high risk of developing serious flu-related complications or because they live with or care for high-risk people. Those include: