Influenza Flu Exposure

Influenza (Flu) Exposure

Is this your symptom?

  • Exposure (Close Contact) to a person with influenza (flu)
  • NO symptoms of flu (no fever, cough, sore throat, or runny nose)

Definition of Exposure (Close Contact) to Influenza

  • Household Close Contact: Lives with a person who has the flu.
  • Other Close Contact (within 6 feet, 2 meters; touching distance) with a person who has the flu. Examples of such close contact are kissing or hugging, sharing eating or drinking utensils, or carpooling. For healthcare workers, doing a physical exam is close contact.

The following are NOT considered close contact exposures:

  • Being in the same school, church, workplace or building as a person with the flu.
  • Walking by a person who has the flu.

Adults at HIGH RISK for Complications

  • The flu is usually not serious in healthy adults. Most people with the flu do not need to be seen by a doctor. They can treat their flu at home.
  • However, sometimes the flu can move into the lungs and cause pneumonia. It can cause dehydration. It can make diabetes, heart failure, and lung problems (such as asthma) worse.

Experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) say that some adults are at HIGH RISK for more serious problems from the flu. These people include:

  • Persons 65 years and older
  • Persons younger than 19 years old who are taking aspirin long-term
  • Persons with a weak immune system, such as from cancer treatment, long-term steroid treatment, or HIV infection
  • Persons who are morbidly obese
  • Persons with lung, heart, kidney, and heart problems
  • Persons with sickle cell anemia
  • Persons with diabetes
  • Persons with nervous system problems such as stroke, seizures, and spinal cord injury
  • Persons living in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities
  • Women who are pregnant or who gave birth in the past two weeks
  • American Indians and Alaskan Natives

When to Call for Influenza (Flu) Exposure

Call Doctor Now or Go to ER

  • Close Contact (exposure) with flu (influenza) within last 72 hours (3 days) and you are at High Risk of problems from the flu. See High Risk list; such as age over 64, pregnant, chronic illness.
  • You feel weak or very sick

Call Doctor Within 24 Hours

  • Close Contact (exposure) with flu within last 72 hours (3 days) and you are NOT at High Risk of problems from the flu, but you still want to talk with your doctor about antiviral medicine
  • Close Contact (exposure) with flu within last 72 hours (3 days) and you are a health care worker, public health worker, or first responder (EMS)
  • You think you need to be seen

Call Doctor During Office Hours

  • Close Contact (exposure) with flu in past 4-7 days and you are at High Risk of problems from the flu
  • You need a flu vaccine (nasal spray or shot)
  • You have other questions or concerns

Self Care at Home

  • Close Contact (exposure) with flu within last 7 days and you are NOT at High Risk of problems from the flu
  • NO Close Contact (exposure) with flu within last 7 days
  • Questions about the flu
  • Questions about how to keep from getting the flu

Care Advice

Influenza Exposure

  1. What You Should Know - Influenza Exposure Within Past 7 Days:
    • Although you were exposed to flu, you do not have any symptoms (such as fever cough or fever).
    • Symptoms usually start within 1 to 4 days of close contact with another person with flu. Seven days is an outer limit.
    • There are some things that you can do to help prevent getting flu.
    • Here is some care advice that should help.
  2. What You Should Know - Influenza Exposure More Than 7 Days Ago:
    • Although you were exposed to flu, you do not have any symptoms.
    • Symptoms usually start within 1 to 4 days of close contact with another person with flu. Seven days is an outer limit.
    • Since 7 days have passed, you should be safe and not get the flu from this exposure.
    • There are some things that you can do to help prevent getting flu.
    • Here is some care advice that should help.
  3. Influenza - Cause:
    • The flu is caused by the influenza virus.
    • Flu viruses change (mutate). Each year the flu virus is slightly different. This is why some people seem to get influenza every year. Flu season occurs every year, often during the fall and winter. During these months, about 5 to 40% of people get sick with the flu each year.
  4. Influenza - Symptoms:
    • Symptoms often start quickly.
    • Symptoms are much like the common cold. They include runny nose, sore throat, and a bad cough.
    • However, the fever is usually higher (102 - 104° F; 38.9 - 40° C) with flu than with a cold. Headaches and muscle aches are also worse with the flu.
  5. Influenza - How It Is Spread:
    • The flu virus is in the nasal mucous or drainage.
    • Every time a person with the flu coughs or sneezes, germs are sprayed into the air.
    • Germs can be found on tissues and handkerchiefs. Germs often get on the hands after a person coughs or sneezes.
  6. Influenza - Diagnosis:
    • Often people can diagnose this problem at home by asking themselves three questions. Is it flu season? Are other people getting the flu? Do the symptoms match the symptoms of flu?
    • A doctor (or other health-care provider) can diagnose the flu by taking a history (asking questions) and performing a physical exam. A flu test (nasal swab) is sometimes used to diagnose the flu.
  7. Influenza - Treatment with Antiviral Medicines:
    • There are antiviral drugs that can be used to treat influenza. The two most commonly prescribed drugs are oseltamivir (Tamiflu) or zanamivir (Relenza).
    • To get the most benefit, these drugs must be started within 48 hours of when flu symptoms start.
    • The benefit of these drugs are limited in healthy adults. The may decrease the time you are sick by 1 to 2 days. They help reduce the symptoms, but do not make them go away.
    • The CDC recommends that antiviral drugs be used for people at High Risk for flu problems. They also recommend them for people with severe flu symptoms.
  8. Call Your Doctor If:
    • You have more questions
    • You think you need to be seen
    • You get worse

Prevention

  1. What You Should Know - Get the Flu Vaccine!
    • All adults should get a flu vaccine (nasal spray or shot) every year. Protect yourself and your family!
    • You should get it in the fall before the start of flu season. However, it is never too late.
    • It is especially important for people over 65 years old and people at High Risk for getting severe problems from the flu.
    • A Vaccine Information Statement (VIS) for the flu vaccine shot is available from the CDC.
    • A Vaccine Information Statement (VIS) for the flu nasal spray vaccine is available from the CDC.
  2. How to Keep from Getting the Flu:
    • Wash your hands often with soap and water. This is very important after shaking hands with a person who has the flu.
    • Avoid touching your own nose and face. The most likely way to get sick is to touch your nose after you touch something with the flu germs on it.
    • Avoid hugging or kissing people who are sick with the flu. Avoid shaking their hands.
  3. Stop the Spread of Germs to Others!
    • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or a cloth when you cough or sneeze.
    • Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. You can use an alcohol-based hand cleaner if soap and water are not available.
    • Don't shake hands when you are sick.
  4. Prevention with Antiviral Medicines:
    • Antiviral drugs are prescription medicines that help fight viruses in your body. These drugs can help keep you from getting the flu if you have been exposed.
    • The two antiviral drugs that are used to prevent flu are: oseltamivir (Tamiflu) and zanamivir (Relenza).
    • Who Should Get an Antiviral Drug? An antiviral drug may be needed for High Risk patients (such as age over 64 years, pregnant, or chronic illness) who have been exposed to the flu, especially in the past 48 hours. An antiviral drug is sometimes used for other people who have been exposed to influenza.
  5. Call Your Doctor If:
    • You have more questions
    • You think you need to be seen
    • You get worse

Internet Resources

  1. Internet Resources - United States:

  2. Internet Resources - Canada:
    • The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) is the best source for flu facts.
  3. Internet Resources - Australia and New Zealand:
    • The Australian Government has flu facts available for you to read.
    • The New Zealand Ministry of Health has flu facts available for you to read.
  4. Internet Resources - Travel and Health:
  5. Call Your Doctor If:
    • You have more questions
    • You think you need to be seen
    • You get worse

And remember, contact your doctor if you develop any of the 'Call Your Doctor' symptoms.

Disclaimer: This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. It is provided for educational purposes only. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information.


Last Reviewed: 9/23/2017 1:22:21 AM
Last Updated: 5/7/2017 1:36:10 PM

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