Synonyms: Flu, Seasonal flu
Medical Specialties: Family practice, Geriatrics, Internal medicine
Influenza is a highly contagious respiratory illness caused by viruses that produce mild to severe symptoms that are sometimes life-threatening. While influenza is most prevalent during winter months, ''flu season'' actually starts in late fall and persists until spring.
Influenza viruses are contagious respiratory illnesses that infect your nose, throat and lungs, which explains the most common symptoms: runny nose, persistent cough and sore throat. The virus spreads via droplets produced by infected people when they cough, sneeze or talk. People with the flu can spread it to others up to about six feet away. You may also become infected by touching an object, such as a doorknob or a steering wheel, which contains the flu virus and then become sick after touching your mouth or eyes.
Incidentally, influenza is not the same as the ''stomach flu,'' although this is a common misconception. What people call stomach flu or “24-hour flu” more commonly turns out to be viral gastroenteritis.