How Common is the Flu?

If you never develop the flu, you may mistakenly believe that the flu is a minor problem. However, the flu virus affects about 5% to 20% of the population each year. Additionally, the flu is responsible for nearly 200,000 hospitalizations each year, according to the CDC.

Don’t get too comfortable and think you’ve dodged a bullet. Here are three important facts to know about the flu virus.

  • The flu vaccine offers 90% protection against the flu virus. It only takes a doctor or pharmacist about five minutes to administer the vaccine, and once the vaccine has been in your system for at least two weeks, you’re protected. Some people do catch the flu after receiving an annual vaccination, but this is rare.
  • The flu virus can last between seven and 14 days. Most people feel better after a week, but depending on the strain of the virus and how well you rest, the virus can linger for up to two weeks. If you’re sick for longer than 14 days, see your doctor. Your doctor may have flu test kits in office, which can determine (within minutes) if you’re sick with the flu or another infection.
  • Everyone is at risk for the flu virus. Being healthy alone isn’t enough to protect yourself against the virus. It’s true that pregnant women, children under the age of five and the elderly have a higher risk of infection. However, anyone exposed to the virus can become ill.
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