Alerts and Advisories

Health Advisories:

Flu & Mumps


The Flu: What To Do If You Get Sick

How do I know if I have the flu?

You may have the flu if you have some or all of these symptoms:

  • fever*
  • cough
  • sore throat
  • runny or stuffy nose
  • body aches
  • headache
  • chills
  • fatigue
  • sometimes diarrhea and vomiting

*It's important to note that not everyone with flu will have a fever.

What should I do if I get sick?

Most people with the flu have mild illness and do not need medical care or antiviral drugs. If you get sick with flu symptoms, in most cases, you should stay home and avoid contact with other people except to get medical care.

If, however, you have symptoms of flu and are in a high risk group, or are very sick or worried about your illness, contact your health care provider (doctor, physician assistant, etc.).

Certain people are at high risk of serious flu-related complications( (including young children, people 65 and older, pregnant women and people with certain medical conditions). This is true both for seasonal flu and novel flu virus infections. (For a full list of people at high risk of flu-related complications, see People at High Risk of Developing Flu–Related Complications( If you are in a high risk group and develop flu symptoms, it’s best for you to contact your doctor early in your illness. Remind them about your high risk status for flu. CDC recommends that people at high risk for complications should get antiviral treatment as early as possible, because benefit is greatest if treatment is started within 2 days after illness onset.

Health care providers will determine whether influenza testing and treatment are needed. Your doctor may prescribe antiviral drugs( that can treat the flu. These drugs work better for treatment the sooner they are started.

Do I need to go the emergency room if I am only a little sick?

No. The emergency room should be used for people who are very sick. You should not go to the emergency room if you are only mildly ill.

If you have the emergency warning signs of flu sickness, you should go to the emergency room. If you get sick with flu symptoms and are at high risk of flu complications or you are concerned about your illness, call your health care provider for advice. If you go to the emergency room and you are not sick with the flu, you may catch it from people who do have it.

What are the emergency warning signs of flu sickness?

In children

  • Fast breathing or trouble breathing
  • Bluish skin color
  • Not drinking enough fluids
  • Not waking up or not interacting
  • Being so irritable that the child does not want to be held
  • Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough
  • Fever with a rash

In addition to the signs above, get medical help right away for any infant who has any of these signs:

  • Being unable to eat
  • Has trouble breathing
  • Has no tears when crying
  • Significantly fewer wet diapers than normal

In adults

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
  • Sudden dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Severe or persistent vomiting
  • Flu-like symptoms that improve but then return with fever and worse cough

Are there medicines to treat the flu?

Yes. There are drugs your doctor may prescribe for treating the flu called “antivirals.” These drugs can make you better faster and may also prevent serious complications. See Treatment - Antiviral Drugs( for more information.

How long should I stay home if I’m sick?

CDC recommends that you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or other necessities. Your fever should be gone without the use of a fever-reducing medicine, such as Tylenol®. You should stay home from work, school, travel, shopping, social events, and public gatherings.

What should I do while I’m sick?

Stay away from others as much as possible to keep from infecting them. If you must leave home, for example to get medical care, wear a facemask if you have one, or cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue. Wash your hands often to keep from spreading flu to others.



Mumps is a contagious disease caused by the mumps virus. It can happen any time of the year, and can cause long-term health problems. The virus is mostly spread by coughing, sneezing or other contact with saliva from someone who is infected. It is as contagious as flu. Those infected with mumps usually are contagious before symptoms appear and for a few days after, so they can spread the virus without realizing it.

There is no treatment for mumps but there is prevention. It’s important for everyone to get the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine to protect themselves and prevent the spread of the mumps virus.

The MMR vaccine is not perfect, but it is the best protection we have against mumps. Two doses gives lifelong protection against mumps to 88%, or about 9 out of 10 people. This means about 12 out of every 100 vaccinated people are still vulnerable to mumps, especially if they have prolonged, close exposure to someone who is contagious. That’s why it’s important for everyone to get the vaccine, to protect people for whom the vaccine might not work, and those who can’t be vaccinated. This helps to keep outbreaks small and easily controlled.

Those who get the mumps even when fully vaccinated may experience milder illness and fewer complications. Without the vaccine, we would see many more cases of the mumps and many more cases with complications or severe symptoms.

Symptoms of mumps

Mumps symptoms typically include fever, headache, muscle aches, tiredness, and loss of appetite. Its most distinctive symptom is swelling of the cheeks, neck or jaw, though not everyone experiences this. Some people get no symptoms at all. The disease also can cause swelling of other glands, such as the testicles.

Potential complications of mumps include hearing loss, meningitis (swelling of the covering of the brain and spinal cord), and brain damage. Complications often require medical treatment. In rare cases, mumps is deadly. Adults are more likely than children to become very sick with mumps.

Symptoms of mumps generally last from one week to ten days. There is no specific treatment for mumps.

Age groups at risk

  • Mumps can affect all ages. However, outbreaks most often occur on college campuses, among sports teams, and in other places with long-term close contact. It is especially important for people in these settings to make sure they are fully immunized against mumps. People born before 1957 are usually immune because they have had mumps, but adults born after 1957 should check to make sure they are up to date with mumps vaccine.

What should you do if you think you or your child has mumps?

Do not go to work, school, or public places. Call your clinic or doctor before going in, and tell them you or your child may have mumps. They may not want you to sit in the waiting area. Instead they may ask you to come into the clinic or doctor’s office another way. These steps will keep from spreading mumps to other people.

More information

Vaccine information

During an outbreak

  • If you don’t think you ever received MMR or MMRV (combination MMR and varicella) vaccine and there is an outbreak in your community, contact your healthcare provider as soon as possible to get immunized, or get a blood test. If you don’t have a healthcare provider, call your local health department or the Family Health Hotline at 1-800-322-2588.
  • If you think you have been exposed to mumps, contact your healthcare provider for advice.
  • If you become ill after a possible exposure to mumps, contact your healthcare provider and ask to be evaluated for possible mumps infection. Stay away from other people to avoid exposing them to mumps.
  • If there’s a mumps outbreak in your community, your local health department will provide outbreak control recommendations.
  • Healthcare providers: Mumps is a notifiable condition.
  • Mumps outbreak information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  • History of mumps cases in Washington




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