Influenza (flu) is a contagious viral infection of the respiratory tract (nose, throat, bronchial tubes, and lungs). People often use the term "flu" to describe a variety of mild illnesses, such as a cold or a stomach virus that has symptoms like the flu. But real flu is different. Flu hits hard and fast; its symptoms are usually worse and last longer than a cold. However, regardless of whether you are experiencing a cold, stomach virus, or flu, if you have any concerns about your health, contact your health care provider (students should contact Gannett).
There are several different kinds of flu virus, and even the same flu virus can affect different people in different ways. Some can make you very ill while others cause milder symptoms. However, symptoms usually include the following:
- Fever (temperature of greater than 100° F)*
- Sore throat
- Body aches/chills
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Occasionally diarrhea and/or vomiting
*It's important to note that not everyone with flu will have a fever.
Most people recover from a bout of flu without problems. However, sometimes flu leads to a secondary infection, such as an ear infection, a sinus infection, or bronchitis. Less frequently, the flu may cause a more serious problem, such as pneumonia. Some people are at higher risk of these flu-related complications than others.
People at higher risk of complications
- pregnant women
- young children
- older adults
- people with long-term illnesses or with impaired immune systems that make it hard to fight infection
- getting an annual flu vaccine is the best way to prevent illness from the flu.
- flu vaccination is especially important for people at higher risk for serious flu related complications.
Flu is unpredictable, but we can count on it always being around. Review the this section of the website to learn more about flu prevention and how to care for yourself and others when illness occurs despite good efforts. You will also find resources and materials specific to Cornell.
See where and when for more information about getting vaccinated.
Read this New York Times article to learn more about the potential added benefits of flu vaccination during pregnancy.
If you're more comfortable reading health information in a language other than English, consider these resources provided by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.