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Influenza (“flu”) is a contagious disease that spreads around the United States every year, usually between October and May. Flu is caused by influenza viruses, and is spread mainly by coughing, sneezing, and close contact.
Anyone can get flu. Flu strikes suddenly and can last several days. Symptoms vary by age, but can include:
• sore throat
• muscle aches
• runny or stuffy nose
Flu can also lead to pneumonia and blood infections, and cause diarrhea and seizures in children. If your child has a medical condition, such as heart or lung disease, flu can make it worse. Flu is more dangerous for some people. Infants and young children, pregnant women, and people with certain health conditions or a weakened immune system are at greatest risk. Each year thousands of people in the United States die from flu, and many more are hospitalized.
Flu vaccine can:
• keep you from getting flu,
• make flu less severe if you do get it, and
• keep your child from spreading flu to your family and others.
A dose of flu vaccine is recommended every flu season. Children 6 months through 8 years of age may need two doses during the same flu season. Everyone else needs only one dose each flu season.