Where Does The Flu Come From, And Why Are We Susceptible To Flu Every Year?

Question: Where does the flu come from, and why are we susceptible to flu every year?

Answer: Influenza is a virus that's spread from person to person. It originates, actually, among birds and other animals such as pigs, and new viral strains of influenza come to this country and to Europe from Southeast Asia. That's the global pattern. But close to home, influenza is a virus that we have in our throats and we transmit to each other when we're in close contact and also when we get the virus on our hands and touch each other and touch our noses and our mouths and that way we can transmit the virus from one person to another.

Now unlike measles, which comes in only one form, the influenza virus comes in several forms and changes year to year. And that's why each year we're pretty much susceptible to the influenza virus that's going around. And that's why we have to get vaccinated against influenza each year in the fall. And that's the best way to protect ourselves against this very serious disease. Getting ourselves vaccinated, and getting everyone in our family vaccinated.

Next: How Is The Flu Passed From One Person To Another?

William Schaffner, M.D., Chair, Department of Preventative Medicine, Vanderbilt Medical School
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