February 13, 2007
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Questions and Answers:
Information for Schools
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recognizes that school administrators, teachers,
staff, and parents are concerned about the flu, particularly its effects on children. Schools are instrumental
in keeping their communities healthy by taking actions such as posting information about hand hygiene in
restrooms, providing flu prevention messages in daily announcements, and being vigilant about cleaning
and disinfecting classroom materials.
The following are some answers to questions commonly asked by school administrators, teachers, staff,
What is influenza (flu)?
Influenza, commonly called "the flu," is caused by the influenza virus, which infects the respiratory tract
(nose, throat, lungs). Unlike many other viral respiratory infections, such as the common cold, the flu
causes severe illness and life-threatening complications in many people.
How does the flu spread?
The main way that influenza viruses are spread is from person to person in respiratory droplets of coughs
and sneezes. (This is called "droplet spread.") This can happen when droplets from a cough or sneeze of
an infected person are propelled (generally up to 3 feet) through the air and deposited on the mouth or
nose of people nearby. Though much less frequent, the viruses also can be spread when a person touches
respiratory droplets on another person or an object and then touches their own mouth or nose (or
someone else’s mouth or nose) before washing their hands.
What are the symptoms of the flu?
Influenza is a respiratory illness. Symptoms of flu include fever, headache, extreme tiredness, dry cough,
sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, and muscle aches. Children can have additional gastrointestinal
symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, but these symptoms are uncommon in adults.
Although the term "stomach flu" is sometimes used to describe vomiting, nausea, or diarrhea, these
illnesses are caused by certain other viruses, bacteria, or possibly parasites, and are rarely related to
influenza. Please also see "Is it a Cold or the Flu" (
How long is a person with flu virus contagious?