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Influenza, or the flu, is a viral infection affecting the respiratory tract. Symptoms include fever, runny nose, stuffed up sinuses, fatigue, headache, cough, sore throat, vomiting, diarrhea, and achy muscles and joints. These are considered to be flu-like symptoms, however, and people who have one or more of them doesn't necessarily have this infection. Someone who suspects that he or she has the flu should see a medical professional since, not only is the virus contagious, but if not treated, it could become severe and even fatal.
When an infected person sneezes or coughs around other people, he or she can spread the influenza virus. Particles are passed through the air, where they will infect those with whom they come in contact. If an infected person uses a telephone, the virus can also be passed on to the next person to use the phone. Since the infected person may not know she has the illness, he she can touch many items without realizing she has passed the virus along to others.
There's no cure for influenza, but a flu shot is available every year. The elderly, pregnant, and children are especially urged to protect themselves in this manner. Those with compromised immune systems or chronic ailments, such as asthma, should also get the shot each year.
Infected people need to take care not to pass on the virus to others. In addition to covering the mouth and nose when they cough or sneeze, they should frequently wash their hands and do their best not to come in contact with other people. Anyone suffering from the virus is urged to stay home from work or school. Even the busiest employer would usually much rather an infected person stay home than start a work-place epidemic. A large number of people can become sick if just one infected person rides a crowded subway or goes to a movie theater.
The best thing that a person who is suffering from the flu can do is stay home, drink plenty of fluids and rest. If a doctor's visit is required, a prescription for an anti-viral may be issued. Alcohol and cigarettes or other tobacco products can lower a person's immunity, so people should avoid these products at least until after recovery.
If symptoms persist or the influenza gets worse, a sufferer should see a medical professional. There's no cure for the flu, but at least people can take measures to prevent spreading the virus.