Four Myth-Busting Facts About the Flu

With COVID-19 getting everyone’s attention it’s easy to overlook another potentially harmful virus – the flu. Unfortunately, many people have misconceptions about the flu that may cause them to let their guard down.

The flu is a respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses that infect the nose, throat and even the lungs. The flu is often confused with the common cold because its symptoms are similar. Unlike the common cold, however, mild to moderate flu symptoms can also include fever, chills, body aches, headache and extreme fatigue.

An average of 2,800 North Dakotans are reported as having lab-identified flu every year though the number of actual cases is probably much higher.

Check out this quick video from the CDC explaining how the flu makes you sick.


It’s important to protect yourself and others, especially during flu season (October – May). These four facts can be your best defense against this potentially life-threatening virus.

Four Facts About the Flu

  1. Flu Spreads Fast
    The flu is so contagious that adults can spread the virus one day before the appearance of symptoms and up to seven days after symptoms begin. It is commonly spread through coughing and sneezing, but an infected person can also pass it on while talking or through physical contact such as shaking hands.
The Flu is Caused by a Virus

Because flu season starts in the fall you might think that it’s caused by colder temperatures. But you catch the flu by being infected with the influenza virus, not from the cold.  Because we spend more time indoors in the winter, the flu does spread faster during colder months.

Antibiotics Won’t Help Against the Flu

Antibiotics fight infections caused by bacteria. They won’t work against the flu because it is caused by a virus. There are antiviral drugs (like Tamiflu) that may be prescribed in some cases for people at a higher risk of severe illness or complications from the flu.

Everyone Should Get an Annual Flu Vaccine

The CDC recommends that everyone from the age of six months and older get their flu vaccine. Even if you’re unlikely to get very ill from the flu, it’s important to get the flu vaccine to protect others around you. The flu can be dangerous, and even life-threatening, especially for seniors and others with high risk factors or chronic conditions. You can do your part to avoid spreading it by getting vaccinated every year.

Some experts believe that lower levels of Vitamin D and melatonin due to less sunlight in the winter months can weaken your immune system.

While the flu vaccine helps protect you against the virus, it declines over time and the circulating strains change over time. It’s important to get an annual flu vaccine to give you and your loved ones the best protection from one flu season to the next.

Many children in North Dakota are eligible for the Vaccines for Children (VFC) program. Follow this link to learn more and find a VFC provider in your area.

BONUS: Additional Flu Prevention Tips

These everyday preventative actions can help stop the spread of influenza and other respiratory diseases.

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • If you are sick, limit contact with others as much as possible to keep from infecting them.
  • Cover coughs and sneezes.
  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth. Germs spread this way.
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with viruses that cause flu.