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Influenza (the flu) is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death. Some people — such as older people, young children, and people with certain health conditions — are at high risk for serious flu complications. The best way to prevent the flu is by getting vaccinated each year.

Seasonal influenza vaccine must be changed each year as the viruses naturally change over time. In 2009-2010, a new and very different flu virus (called 2009 H1N1) spread worldwide, causing the first flu pandemic (world-wide spread of disease) in more than 40 years. A new vaccine was quickly created and distributed. The 2009 H1N1 virus has continued to cause illness since the pandemic, so the more recent seasonal flu vaccines have been designed to protect against 2009 H1N1 as well as two other common seasonal influenza viruses.

To avoid catching the flu, get vaccinated each year and practice good hand hygiene. To avoid giving the flu to others, stay home when you are sick, cough or sneeze into tissues and discard them properly, and wash your hands frequently with soap and water or use an approved hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.

Flu season in North Carolina is October through May. Throughout the season the N.C. Flu Update ( from the Division of Public Health provides information on vaccine and weekly updates on the spread of the illness in North Carolina.

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