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Health Department

Influenza (flu)

Female attending physician holding stethoscope listening old patient during homecare visit. Doctor checking heartbeat examining elder retired man at home. Seniors heart diseases, cardiology concept.

Influenza (flu) is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. Flu can cause mild to severe illness. Very severe illness may result in hospitalization or death. Learn more about the current flu season in Colorado from the CDPHE Flu and RSV Report.

Flu is best prevented by getting an annual vaccine in late fall each year. Get vaccinated by the end of October for protection through the flu season. If you have not yet been vaccinated, it is not too late! Flu often peaks in February and new cases continue into May. Get vaccinated as soon as you are able to protect yourself and your family from influenza. Flu vaccines are available at many doctor’s offices and pharmacies.

Flu FAQs

Is flu a severe cold?

No. Although common colds and influenza can have some similar symptoms, they are not the same. Flu is caused by different viruses than colds, can be prevented through vaccination, and can be treated with prescription medication. Cold symptoms are usually much milder than influenza. In addition, influenza can result in serious health problems.

What are the symptoms of influenza?

Flu symptoms may include fever, chills, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle aches, headache, fatigue, vomiting and diarrhea. People with flu may have some but not all symptoms. Flu symptoms typically begin suddenly.

How is flu spread?

Flu is transmitted when a sick person creates tiny droplets when coughing, sneezing, and talking and those droplets land in the mouth or nose of another person. It is also possible for flu to spread when a healthy person touches surfaces or objects with virus on them and then touches their mouth or nose.

Who is at risk of severe illness from flu?

Anyone can have severe illness from flu, but people over 65, children younger than 5, pregnant people, and people with chronic medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes, and heart disease are at greater risk.

Complications of flu include pneumonia, ear infraction, sinus infection, and worsening of chronic conditions that the patient had prior to illness with flu.

How can I avoid getting flu?

Getting an annual flu vaccine is the best way to prevent illness and complications from flu.

Avoid sick people, wash your hands with soap and water often, and stay home when you are sick to prevent the spread of flu and other illnesses.

Clean surfaces that are frequently touched, such as doorknobs, light switches, and electronic devices.

Who should get a flu vaccine?

Flu vaccines are safe and recommended for everyone ages 6 months and older. Flu vaccines are available as a shot or nasal mist. If you live or spend time with anyone at risk of severe illness, getting vaccinated is important to help protect them.

Flu vaccines reduce the chance you will get flu. However, if you are vaccinated and get the flu, the vaccine can make your illness milder and keep you out of the hospital.

When should I get a flu vaccine?

Flu vaccines are recommended annually in September or October (before flu season begins) for any individual 6 months of age and older who does not have a history of severe allergic reaction to the vaccine.

Where can I get a flu vaccine?

Free (with most insurance plans) or low-cost flu vaccines are available through your doctor’s office and many pharmacy locations including Walgreens, King Sooper, Safeway, and Costco. Find a flu vaccine near you.

Can I get the flu vaccine at the same time as a COVID booster?

Yes. If you are eligible for a COVID vaccine, you can get your flu and COVID vaccine at the same time. They can be administered in the same arm or different arms.

What should I do if I have flu?

Contact your healthcare provider if you suspect you have flu and are at higher risk for complications. Prescription medication can treat flu or prevent complications from severe illness.

How long is flu contagious?

People are most contagious in the 3-4 days after symptoms begin, but it is possible to spread flu from the day before symptoms begin through seven days after symptoms start.

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