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The flu is a respiratory infection of the nose, throat, and sometimes the lungs caused by any of three strains of viruses -- influenza A, B, or C. It causes achy, feverish, coughing misery for millions of Americans each year during flu season, which typically runs from November through March.
Influenza is highly contagious among kids. "Only measles and chicken pox are more easily spread," says Lorry Rubin, M.D., chief of pediatric infectious diseases at Schneider Children's Hospital, in New Hyde Park, New York. A child can catch the flu by breathing in virus-carrying droplets that have been sneezed or coughed by an infected person, or by touching objects on which the droplets land and then putting her hands to her nose, eyes, or mouth. The virus can linger in the air for as long as three hours and can live for up to two hours on surfaces like sinks, doorknobs, and stair railings.
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