Influenza, or flu, is a contagious respiratory infection caused by several flu viruses that infect the nose, throat and lungs. People infected with the seasonal flu virus feel miserable with fever, chills, muscle aches, coughing, congestion, headache and fatigue for a week or so. Most people who get the flu get better within two weeks, but some people may develop serious complications, such as pneumonia. Pandemic influenza is when a new flu virus strain occurs that can spread easily from person-to-person and the virus is one for which most people have no immunity.
Why Is the Study of Influenza a Priority for NIAID?
Each year, seasonal influenza sickens millions and causes thousands of hospitalizations and flu-related deaths. Even healthy people can get very sick from the flu and spread it to others. Flu infection can present particularly serious problems for young children, the elderly, pregnant women and people with certain medical conditions, such as asthma and heart disease. In addition to seasonal influenza, NIAID is also working to prepare for a potential pandemic flu threat. Pandemic flu occurs when a new flu virus strain emerges for which humans have little to no immunity, which enables the virus to spread easily from person-to-person. Flu viruses of this type can sicken millions around the globe.
How Is NIAID Addressing This Critical Topic?
NIAID is conducting and supporting research to find new and improved ways to diagnose, treat and prevent influenza infection. This includes working toward a universal flu vaccine that could provide long-lasting protection against multiple strains of influenza, such as those that cause seasonal flu as well as emerging forms capable of causing a global pandemic.