Last year’s flu seasons was one of the worst on record, an estimated 80,000 Americans died of the flu according data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The flu, or influenza, is a contagious disease, causing mild to severe symptoms, and sometimes resulting in death. Seasonal influenza is even more deadly – even infecting young, healthy children and adults. Health officials say that the most effective protection from the flu is getting a flu shot, especially if you’re 65 years or older.

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Though this year’s flu season has been predicted as fairly mild, however, it’s still important to protect yourself through vaccinations and understand what you need to know about this cold and flu season, some information may even surprise you.  Here’s seven things you might not know about the cold and flu season.

1.  You’re Contagious Before You Know You’re Sick

Even before you start feeling the symptoms of flu – which include fever, cough, muscle aches, headache, fatigue, chills, and sometimes vomiting and diarrhea – you can be contagious. The flu virus can live in your body one to four days before symptoms appear. You protect yourself and others by washing your hands thoroughly and covering your mouth and nose when your sneeze or cough.

2. Simply Breathing Is Enough to Spread the Virus

The flu is an airborne illness – so if you’re infected, stay home. Not only can the virus spread though sneezing and coughing, but simply breathing is enough to infect the person sitting beside you. According to a study at the University of Maryland School, people with the flu virus produce infectious aerosols – or tiny droplets that can become airborne.

3.  Your Pet Can Get the Flu, but Can’t Spread It

Yes, if you have a pet, they are subjectable to catching the flu. Symptoms in pets include sneezing and coughing. Fortunately, because the flu virus in cats and dogs are generally specific to them, you cannot catch the virus from them, and you cannot pass your virus to them.

Pets actually catch the flu from their coat, which can harbor and attract virus organisms that cause the disease.

4. Flu Virus Can Live on Surfaces

You know that when you’re contagious, you can spread the virus up to 1.8 meters when you sneeze or cough? So, it is very important to sure to constantly wipe down all surface areas, especially during cold and flu season. Actually, the flu virus can live for up to 48 hours on nonporous surfaces. Yuck!

5. Wearing a Mask Won’t Protect You

During the cold and flu season, you’ll most likely see people wearing mask over their faces. If they’re sick, then it’s just cause to wear one since they’re protecting you.

However, if you’re not infected with the flu virus and are just wearing one to protect yourself from others with the virus, it’s not going to do anything for you. According to a study at the University of Melbourne, “surgical masks are not designed to prevent inhalation of airborne particles.”

6. Vitamin C Also Won’t Protect You

Although vitamin C can boost your immune system, studies have shown that vitamin C may reduce the duration of the illness, but it won’t protect you from getting infected.

7.  Influenza Affects the Most Vulnerable

Unfortunately, if you’re a senior over the age of 65, you’re most likely to come down with the flu virus and are more subjectable to long-term effects or even death.

Young children are also my likely to get the flu, especially children younger than two years of age. If you’re a parent of a young child, it’s important to take to your doctor, any child over the age of six-months can get the flu vaccine.

Why to Consider Getting the Flu Vaccine

If you already have your flu shot, you’re already one step ahead of most people. According to health experts, the flu vaccine is the greatest prevention against influenza. And if haven’t already got the vaccine you may want to consider getting it to protect yourself and others around you.

While it is true that the flu vaccine is not 100 percent effective for everyone, it still offers an estimated efficiency of 40 to 60 percent protection. The fewer people get infected, the fewer people overall are exposed to the virus – this results in fewer hospitalization, complications, and fewer deaths.