​​What is Influenza (Flu)?

Influenza (the flu) is a common seasonal respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses that infect the nose, throat, and sometimes the lungs. There are two types of influenza viruses: Influenza type A and type B. Infection with an influenza virus may cause mild or severe illness, and at times can lead to death.


Influenza (flu) can cause mild to severe illness, and usually come on suddenly. 

Symptoms include:

  • Fever* or feeling feverish/chills *Not everyone with flu will have a fever.
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Muscle or body aches
  • ​Headaches
  • ​Fatigue (tiredness)
  • Vomiting and diarrhea are common in some people

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Influenza spreads from person to person through respiratory droplets that are released when a person infected with the flu coughs, sneezes, or talks. These respiratory droplets may land in the mouths or noses of people within six feet of the infected person or may be inhaled into the lungs. Flu viruses are transmitted through direct contact with contaminated objects less often. A person with the flu can begin spreading it to others one day before they get sick and up to seven days after developing symptoms. Although certain people (infants and people who have a weakened immune system) will remain contagious for longer.

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The best way to prevent the flu is to get a flu shot every year. Vaccination against the flu lowers the risk of serious flu complications, including hospitalization and death. Everyday actions may also help prevent the flu, including:
Avoid close contact with those who are sick and staying home if you are sick for at least 24 hours after your fever goes away without using fever reducing medicines.
Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing, then dispose of the tissue.
Wash your hands with soap and water, scrubbing for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
Avoid touching your mouth, nose, or eyes.
Frequently clean and sanitize high-touched surfaces like doorknobs, handrails, and lightswitches, especially if someone is sick.

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Emergency Warning Signs:

Seek medical care right away if you experience any of these emergency warning signs: https://www.cdc.gov/flu/symptoms/symptoms.htm#emergency

Treatment and Care:

If you get sick, a doctor may prescribe antiviral medication. These medications work best when started in the first two days of becoming ill and can shorten the length of your illness, ease symptoms, and prevent flu complications. Get in touch with your healthcare provider if you have flu symptoms and are at higher risk for severe flu illness, if you're feeling very ill, or if you are concerned about your health.Those considered at a higher-risk are older adults ages 65 and older, those who are pregnant, children under the age of five, and people of any age who have certain chronic medical conditions (like diabetes, asthma, or heart disease).

If you get sick:
  • If your doctor prescribes antivirals, take them as directed.
  • Monitor symptoms, rest, and drink plenty of fluids.
  • Stay home and away from others to avoid spreading the illness unless you need medical attention.
  • When you sneeze or cough, cover your mouth and nose with a tissue. After using the tissue, dispose of it in the trash.
  • Use soap and water to frequently wash your hands. Use an alcohol-based hand rub in the absence of soap and water.
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated.

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Avian Influenza: 


Avian influenza viruses are flu type A viruses that typically circulate in wild aquatic birds and may infect domestic poultry as well as other birds and animals. Bird flu viruses don't typically infect people, although sporadic cases of human infection have occurred. When a human is infected with the bird flu symptoms can vary from mild to severe illness leading to death.


Bird flu infects the respiratory and gastrointestinal tracts in wild and domestic birds and is present in the saliva, mucous and feces of infected birds. Mammals can be infected with H5N1 bird flu viruses when they eat infected birds or other animals; or if they are exposed to environments contaminated with virus. Recently, spread of avian influenza A(H5N1) has happened between cows in the same herd, from cows to poultry, and between herds of dairy cows. Humans may be infected if the bird flu virus gets into a person’s eyes, nose, or mouth. People with close or prolonged unprotected contact with infected birds or animals are at greater risk of infection. The spread of bird flu viruses from person to person is very rare.

Prevention for the General Public: 

The best way to prevent infection is to avoid sources of exposure. Whenever possible the general public should avoid direct contact with wild birds. Even if they do not appear ill, wild birds may still be infected with the Bird Flu. Domestic poultry and dairy cows are susceptible to the currently circulating bird flu virus, influenza A(H5N1). People should avoid unprotected contact with domestic birds or dairy cattle that are sick or are suspected have bird flu virus infection and not touch surfaces that can be contaminated with saliva, mucous, feces, litter, raw milk, or other materials that are contaminated by infected birds or cattle. People should not prepare or eat uncooked or undercooked food or related uncooked food products, such as unpasteurized (raw) milk, or raw cheeses, from animals with suspected or confirmed bird flu. 

Prevention for People with Job Related Contact with Birds and Dairy Cattle: 

Be aware of the risk of exposure to bird flu viruses and take proper precautions. People with work or recreational exposures to Bird Flu virus-infected animals may be at increased risk of infection and should follow recommended precautions. Unprotected exposures to any infected animal or to an environment in which infected birds or other animals are or have been present can pose a risk of infection. To reduce the risk of HPAI A(H5N1) virus infection, poultry farmers and poultry workers, backyard bird flock owners, livestock farmers and workers, veterinarians and veterinary staff, and emergency responders should avoid unprotected direct physical contact or close exposure to sick or deceased birds or cattle, feces, litter, raw milk, or surfaces and water sources that may be contaminated with animal excretions. People with job related contact to birds or dairy cattle should wear personal protective equipment (PPE) when in direct or close physical contact with sources of bird flu virus. Recommended PPE includes: disposable or non-disposable fluid resistant coveralls, an N95 respirator, properly-fitted unvented or indirectly vented safety goggles or face shield, rubber boots or rubber boot covers with sealed seams that can be sanitized or disposable boot covers for tasks taking a short amount of time, disposable or non-disposable head cover or hair cover, and disposable or non-disposable gloves. When wearing PPE: Avoid touching your mouth, nose, or eyes after contact with any contaminated material. Do not eat, drink, smoke, or use the bathroom while wearing PPE. Use separate designated clean areas for donning and doffing PPE.
Discard disposable PPE after use and wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.

Prevention for Hunters or Other People Who Come into Contact with Birds: 

Owners of backyard or hobbyist flocks should report sick birds or bird deaths to the West Virginia State Veterinarian at 304-558-2214 or by contacting United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) at 1-866-536-7593. Bird owners should practice good biosecurity and prevent wild birds from coming into contact with domestic poultry. If you suspect your flock has been infected with the Bird Flu, do not touch litter or feces, sick or dead birds, or other surfaces that can be contaminated with the feces, saliva, or mucous of sick birds without PPE. Always wear PPE around sick or dead birds and discard disposable PPE after use then wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. While depopulating and cleaning the enclosure avoid stirring up dust to limit dispersal of the virus into the air. If Bird Flu is confirmed in your flock, the USDA recommends that your continue to wear PPE in contaminated areas until all infected birds, litter, eggs, and feces have been removed. Further recommendations for PPE use depend on whether a 150-day fallow is used after the flock is depopulated. Hunters should dress game birds in the field while wearing PPE to prevent any potential disease spread. Wear gloves, an N95 respirator or a well-fitting facemask, and eye protection when dressing birds. Disposable PPE should be thrown away after use then wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.

Information for People Exposed to Bird Flu viruses 

General Public and Recreational Exposure to Birds: 

If you have unprotected contact with a sick or dead bird and become ill, contact your healthcare provider. Your healthcare provider can work with your local health department to coordinate testing if there is a concern for Bird Flu infection. People who become sick within 10 days of their exposure to infected birds should not go to school or work and should distance from their household members until it has been determined that they do not to have bird flu virus infection and have recovered from their illness. 

For People with Job-Related Contact with Birds: 

Your local health department may contact you about your exposure to infected birds or dairy cattle. You may be asked to self-monitor for symptoms for 10 days following your last exposure. If you develop symptoms during the 10 days from your last exposure, notify your local health department right away, don't go to work, and stay away from other people in your household. The local health department will help you get free bird flu testing through the state public health laboratory.

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Swine Influenza:


Swine influenza is a respiratory illness caused by influenza type A viruses that normally circulate in pigs. The flu viruses that circulate in pigs are not the same as the flu viruses that typically circulate in people. While uncommon, human infections with swine influenza can happen. When a swine influenza virus infects a person it is known as a variant influenza virus.


People may become infected with a variant influenza virus through contact with respiratory droplets from a sick pig coughing or sneezing. People can come into contact with respiratory droplets from sick pigs at agricultural fairs or swine farms. A person can become infected if the respiratory droplets from a sick pig come into contact with their nose, mouth, or are inhaled. You can not become infected with a swine influenza virus from eating properly handled and prepared pork. Person to person transmission with a variant influenza virus is rare.


Seasonal influenza vaccines do not protect against infection with swine influenza viruses, although it will help prevent the spread of human influenza A viruses to pigs and co-infection with a swine and human influenza type A virus. Certain everyday preventative measures can help prevent the spread of influenza type A viruses between pigs and people. Avoid contact with pigs that are ill. If you are ill or experiencing flu-like symptoms, avoid coming into contact with pigs until 7 days have past since your symptoms started or you have been fever-free for 24 hours without using fever reducing medicines. Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds before and after contact with pigs or use an alcohol-based hand rub if soap and water is not available. If you are an animal caretaker and you or your pigs are ill, take precautions such as wearing personal protective ​equipment and washing your hands after removing your gloves.

If you develop flu-like illness after contact with sick pigs, talk to your healthcare provider about your symptoms and let them know about your exposure to pigs. Your healthcare provider can coordinate testing for variant influenza viruses with the local health department and may prescribe antiviral medications for you to take. If you develop flu-like symptoms after exposure to sick pigs, stay home from school and work, and distance from other people for the 7 days after your symptoms started or until you are fever free for 24 hours without using fever reducing medication.

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