Written on October 21, 2023 by Sendra Yang, PharmD, MBA. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.
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Fall is almost here, and the flu season is around the corner. Here in the United States, the flu virus usually spreads during the fall and winter months. Precise timing and duration are not exact, and each flu season can vary, but flu activity upticks around October and peaks between December and February.
Symptoms of the flu can be confused with other infections, such as COVID or the common cold. Other diseases, such as sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), may also show symptoms that are very similar to flu symptoms. Continue reading to learn more about the flu, flu symptoms, and flu-like symptoms in STDs.
The flu, or influenza, is a contagious respiratory illness caused by four different types of influenza viruses: A, B, C, and D.[3,4] The viruses can infect the nose, throat, and sometimes the lungs.[3,4] The influenza viruses are transmitted through respiratory droplets from the mouth and respiratory system during coughing, talking, and sneezing. It can also be transmitted by touching a surface or object with the flu virus and subsequently touching the mouth, nose, or eyes. The influenza viruses can be transmitted before seeing symptoms and until five to seven days after an infection.
On average, about 8% of the U.S. population gets sick from the flu each season. Between 2010 and 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated that the flu resulted in 9 million to 14 million illnesses, 140,000 to 710,000 hospitalizations, and 12,000 to 52,000 deaths each year.
Influenza is an acute disease causing inflammation of the respiratory tract, causing mild to severe illness.[3,4] Acute symptoms can last between seven and 10 days. Typical symptoms of influenza include a runny or stuffy nose, high fever, cough, sore throat, muscle or body aches, headaches, fatigue, vomiting, and diarrhea. In healthy people, the flu infection takes a few days to recover from, but complications (such as pneumonia and death) are more common in high-risk people.
High-risk groups consisting of children, the elderly, immunocompromised individuals, and pregnant women are more prone to complications. Severe complications can develop within 48 hours from the onset of symptoms.
Signs and symptoms of STDs may sometimes overlap with the symptoms of the flu.[6,7] Here are six STDs that have flu-like symptoms [6,7]:
If you are experiencing flu-like symptoms and think you have been exposed to STDs, consider connecting with a healthcare provider. Everlywell offers online STD consults in 2 hours or less. The virtual call will include a discrete, up to 30-minute video appointment with a licensed healthcare provider where you can discuss your sexual health concerns and get your questions answered. During the appointment, you will be provided personalized recommendations and next steps that may include additional STD tests or prescription medication, if applicable. You can also test at home with Everlywell Sexual Health Tests.