AFT - American Federation of Teachers

Shortcut Navigation:
Email ShareThis


Influenza Fact Sheet and Preparedness Guide

Let's face it, schools are more crowded then ever. The risk of exposure to flu and other communicable diseases is increasing as a result. Fortunately, AFT members can help protect themselves and their students if they adopt proven measures to reduce exposure. 

What is the flu?

Influenza (the flu) is a contagious illness that can cause fever, headaches, cough, chills, body aches, sinus problems and sometimes earaches. The flu can be very serious and unpredictable, and is often mistaken for or confused with the common cold.

While sharing is an important part of the learning experience and the school environment, during flu season germs are one thing that doesn't need to be shared!

Most people who are diagnosed with the flu usually recover within one to two weeks. However, it is important to note that some people develop serious complications from the flu, such as pneumonia or aggravation of previously existing chronic illnesses.

People of any age, especially those with previous long-term health conditions, are susceptible to getting the flu.

What are the causes?

Ever wonder what causes the flu? While more than 100 different viruses can cause a cold, only influenza virus types A and B cause the flu. Type A is the most common. It changes often, and causes a new epidemic or mass outbreak of flu every few years.

The "stomach flu" is not the same as influenza. Stomach flu is actually irritation and inflammation of the stomach and intestines (the gastrointestinal tract). This may be caused by a virus, bacteria, or parasites in spoiled food or unclean water, to name a few. Influenza, on the other hand, is a viral infection that mimics a cold EXCEPT it starts forcefully with symptoms of fatigue, fever and respiratory congestion. See the chart on the following page, which compares the cold and the flu side by side.

How is the flu transmitted?

The flu is transmitted very easily. It spreads when infected people cough, sneeze or even talk around others. The virus can pass through the air and enter your body through your nose or mouth. You also can get the flu simply by touching a surface, like a telephone or a doorknob, that has been touched by someone who has the flu. If you have touched a contaminated surface, the virus can pass from your hand to your nose or mouth. People who have the flu are contagious a day before symptoms appear and three to seven days after. Children can be contagious for more than a week.


There are four main options for combating the flu: vaccines, good hygiene, over-the-counter medicines, and rest and relaxation.

While you should consider all of these options, it is especially important to make sure you get adequate rest. Simple rest is one of the body’s primary mechanisms to fight illness. It is also important to stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water and other fluids. Lastly, try to avoid alcohol and smoking, as these activities can make symptoms worse and delay the recovery process.

Download the complete fact sheet on influenza