What is the flu?
Influenza A and B, also called the flu, is a respiratory infection caused by a virus of the Orthomyxoviridae family. It is a large enveloped virus, about 110nm in diameter, with hemagglutinin (HA) and neuraminidase (NA) projections protruding through the glycoprotein membrane, and containing a segmented, single-stranded RNA. Both viruses have a high frequency of mutation and cause periodic epidemics of influenza worldwide. Epidemics are particularly severe when the mutations have resulted in dramatic shifts in the HA or NA structure such that circulating antibodies in a community do not recognize the virus strains. Influenza C virus is similar to influenza types A and B, but less common and causes mild upper respiratory illness. It is not associated with epidemics due to its lack of neuraminidase proteins.

What are the symptoms of the flu?
Symptoms of influenza typically include sore throat, inflammation of the trachea and bronchi, muscle aches, fever, headache, and fatigue. Gastro-intestinal symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea are much more common in children than adults. Complication of infections include bacterial pneumonia, dehydration, worsening of chronic medical conditions such as congestive heart failure, asthma, and diabetes, sinus problems and ear infections. Complications are most severe in immunocompromised patients, people 65 years of age or older, pregnant women, and children between 6 months and 23 months of age.

What should you do if you think you have the flu?
People with flu-like symptoms such as fever and chills, muscle ache and joint pain, headache, and fatigue should stay home during the first three days of their illness to avoid exposing others to the virus. There are some serious symptoms that may require emergency attention. It is important to drink plenty of fluids, eat lightly, and get plenty of rest. Acetaminophen or ibuprofen may be used for pain and fever. Aspirin and cold medications containing acetylsalicylic acid should never be taken for symptoms of possible flu, since this increases the risk of a rare but potentially fatal liver disease called Reye's syndrome, especially in children and young adults.

Keep your family strong. Vaccinate. Fight Flu.

A flu shot is the best way to prevent the flu, but there are antiviral drugs that can be used to prevent and treat the flu. The four available drugs are amantadine, rimantadine, zanamivir, and oseltamivir. If treatment is started within the first two days of onset of symptoms, these drugs can shorten the duration of the illness and reduce the severity of symptoms. Please contact your regular health care provider if you suspect you have the flu and would like to see if antiviral medications may be right for you.

How are flu outbreaks monitored in WV?
The West Virginia Influenza Surveillance Program monitors flu through the use of sentinel providers.

Forms and Instructions

CDC Flu View - for surveillance data
Phone: 304-558-3530 extension 58868
Fax: 304-558-6210