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Influenza (Flu)

Influenza (flu) is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. Even healthy people can get the flu, and it can be serious. Everyone 6 months of age and older should get a flu vaccine.

One vaccine per season is recommended for most people, with the exception that two doses are recommended for children 6 months old through 8 years of age who have never received a flu vaccine.

Certain people are at greater risk of serious illness and death from flu:

  • Young children
  • Older adults
  • Pregnant women
  • Those with chronic health conditions including heart, lung, or kidney diseases; diabetes; and/or weakened immune systems

Those who live with or care for people at high risk for developing flu-related complications should also receive the influenza vaccine. They include:

  • Health care workers
  • Family and caregivers of young children

Although the flu and colds are caused by viruses, there are differences between these illnesses

Influenza Precautions

There are ways you can fight the flu:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizers.
  • Avoid people who are sick.
  • Stay home from work and school when you are sick; keep your distance from others.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing; throw that tissue away immediately. If you do not have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve, not your hands.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth after touching any objects or surfaces that might be contaminated with flu viruses, which can live on surfaces such as doorknobs and handles, countertops, tables, and grocery cart handles, for up to 48 hours.

What to Do If You Get the Flu

If you are otherwise in good health:

  • Get plenty of rest, drink a lot of liquids and avoid using alcohol and tobacco.
  • Take medications to relieve the symptoms, but never give aspirin to children or teenagers who have flu-like symptoms, especially fever, without first talking to your doctor.
  • If your symptoms are unusually severe, for example, you’re having difficulty breathing, consult your health care provider right away.

If you are at an increased risk from complications, which includes people 65 or older, people with chronic medical conditions, pregnant women, and children younger than 2 years old: 

  • Consult your health care provider when your flu symptoms begin.
  • Certain prescription drugs may be used to lessen the severity and duration of the illness if taken within 24 to 48 hours of onset of symptoms.

For more more information, please contact the Mercer County Division of Public Health at 609-278-7165 or


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