Influenza, commonly known as the flu, is a contagious respiratory infection caused by viruses. It affects the nose, throat, and sometimes the lungs. The flu can be mild to severe and sometimes fatal for high-risk groups. Symptoms include fever, cough, muscle aches, congestion, runny nose, and fatigue. The flu can be spread through saliva, physical contact, airborne respiratory droplets (coughing and sneezing), and contaminated surfaces.
The best way to prevent the flu is to get a flu shot every year. Because the virus changes from year to year, it is recommended that each person get a flu vaccine each year at the beginning of the flu season in the fall. The vaccine can help prevent the virus overall or, at the very least, can help keep the symptoms mild if contracted. Other ways to prevent the flu virus are to wash your hands consistently, avoid touching your face and eyes, and covering your nose and mouth when you sneeze using a tissue or the inside of your arm/elbow.
During the 2019-2020 flu season, the CDC estimates the virus was responsible for 38 million illnesses, 18 million median visits, 405,000 hospitalizations, and 22,000 deaths. Although medical experts are not certain which COVID-19 precautions, such as masks, extra hand washing, and social distancing, contribute to a dramatic drop in flu cases, they are helping to keep numbers especially low in the 2020-2021 flu season. As of January 30, 2021, there have been just 1,316 positive flu cases; however, around the same time last year, there were 129,997 positive flu cases.
While the flu can be easily avoided with a vaccine and precautionary steps, people still get the flu every year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention consistently measure influenza activity throughout the United States and publishes a weekly surveillance report called FluView. FluView provides all up-to-date information about the flu virus, including activity estimates (sporadic, local activity, regional, and widespread) and activity levels (minimal, low, moderate, and high). According to this map, all states had "minimal" flu activity for the week ending with February 20, 2021.