Preventing Influenza

Influenza, known as the flu, is a contagious respiratory illness that affects millions of people every year. Respiratory illnesses affect any part of the respiratory system, including the lungs; the trachea, or windpipe; and the bronchi, which carry air into the lungs. Flu symptoms include fever, body aches, cough, sore throat, a runny or stuffy nose, chills, and fatigue.


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Protecting yourself from the flu can be as simple as getting the flu vaccine, which is available as a nasal spray or shot. Everyone six months and older should receive the vaccine—especially people at risk of complications, including children; adults older than 65; pregnant women; and people with chronic health conditions, such as diabetes and heart disease.

Many doctors’ offices, clinics, pharmacies, and college health centers offer flu vaccines, as do employers and even some schools. Many NYU Langone doctors offer the flu vaccine to adults and children.

There are many different types of flu viruses. The vaccine protects against the top three or four flu strains that research indicates may cause the most illness during a given flu season. In the United States, flu season can begin as early as October and continue into May. Most cases are diagnosed in January and February.

Flu viruses spread when a person coughs or sneezes, releasing droplets into the air. The droplets may enter the mouths or noses of people nearby. You may also contract the virus by touching something with flu germs on it, and then touching your eyes, nose, or mouth. 

You can avoid the flu in the following ways:

  • wash your hands often with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer
  • avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth
  • avoid coming into close contact with sick people
  • clean and disinfect surfaces, such as countertops, and objects, such as mobile phones, that are frequently touched
  • get enough sleep and exercise, manage stress, drink plenty of non-alcoholic fluids, and eat healthfully
  • cover your nose and mouth with a tissue every time you cough or sneeze

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If you contract the flu, stay home for at least 24 hours after there is no sign of fever without the use of fever-reducing medicine. If symptoms persist, doctors at NYU Langone offer medical treatments to reduce the severity and duration of your symptoms.

Our Research and Education in Influenza

Learn more about our research and professional education opportunities.