What You Should Know About the Flu

The best way to prevent the flu is by getting a flu vaccine.

Everyone 6 months or older should get a flu vaccine every year.

Flu Vaccine Finder

To find pharmacies and clinics offering flu vaccine near you visit the HealthMap Vaccine Finder

For information about flu vaccine clinics in your county, contact your local health department.

Flu activity in New York State (NYS)

New York State Flu Tracker

The New York State Flu Tracker is now available

The New York State Flu Tracker tracks laboratory-confirmed influenza cases each week across New York, in each region and county, and compares trends between seasons.

Flu and COVID-19

An annual flu vaccine is recommended for almost everyone 6 months and older. It is one of the best ways to reduce flu illnesses, hospitalizations and death from flu. This fall and winter, the flu virus and the virus that causes COVID-19 may both be spreading. For that reason, getting a flu shot will be more important than ever to help people stay healthy and to ease the burden on our health care system. Getting a flu shot now is more important than ever because doctors don’t know what the risk is of having both flu and COVID-19 at the same time.

The New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) collects, compiles, and analyzes information on flu activity year-round in New York State (NYS), and produces a weekly report during the flu season (October through the following May). Weekly reports are posted on our website at: Flu Activity, Surveillance, and Reports.

Flu symptoms

The flu is not just a really bad cold. The flu is a contagious illness that affects the nose, throat, lungs, and other parts of the body. It can spread quickly from one person to another. It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death.

Unlike a cold, flu symptoms start suddenly. They appear about 1 to 4 days after a person is exposed to the flu.

Flu symptoms may include:

  • Fever or feeling feverish/chills
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • Tiredness
  • Some people have vomiting or diarrhea. This is more common in children.

Symptoms of coronavirus infection can be similar to flu symptoms. If you think you may have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 talk to your health care provider and get tested.

People at high risk of flu complications

Anyone can get the flu and serious complications from the flu can happen at any age.

Some people are at high risk for serious complications from the flu. This includes: older people, pregnant women, young children and people with certain health conditions. This year for the first time, three of the nation’s leading, non-profit health organizations – the American Lung Association, the American Diabetes Association and the American Heart Association - are urging adults living with chronic disease to prioritize getting an annual flu vaccine and are also calling on health care professionals to advocate for and support flu immunization in their practices. Infants under 6 months of age have a higher risk of flu complications than children of any other age. Yet they are too young for the flu vaccine.

Those who live or work with people who are at high risk of flu complications should get a flu vaccine to keep from spreading the flu to them.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, flu vaccine is also especially important for:

Getting a flu vaccine has many benefits

  • The flu vaccine can keep you from getting the flu.
  • The flu vaccine can help make your illness less severe if you do get sick with the flu.
  • The flu vaccine can reduce the risk of being hospitalized with the flu for children and adults.
  • The flu vaccine protects pregnant women during and after pregnancy from flu complications. It also protects their newborn children for several months after birth.
  • The flu vaccine reduces the risk of a heart attack in people with heart disease.
  • The flu vaccine can reduce the risk of a child dying from the flu.
  • The flu vaccine can reduce the risk of adults dying from the flu.
  • Getting a flu vaccine can also help protect the people around you from getting the flu, especially people at high risk for serious complications from the flu.
  • Getting a flu vaccine this fall is more important than ever to reduce your risk of flu and help ease the burden on a health care system likely to be dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • For more information see the fact sheet: Why Get a Flu Vaccine

You can't get the flu from getting the flu vaccine

The flu vaccine does not give you the flu. It stimulates your body to produce antibodies. These antibodies protect you from flu viruses. Once you get the flu vaccine, it takes about two weeks for it to be fully effective. You should not wait to get vaccinated.

How the virus is spread

The flu usually spreads from person to person when someone with the flu coughs or sneezes. Sometimes people get the flu because they touch an object or surface with flu virus on it -- and then touch their eyes, nose, or mouth.

More flu information