Cover of FAQ: Influenza

Where do new influenza viruses come from? How are they different from the influenza viruses that circulate every year? Why is vaccination so important? To help answer the many questions people have about this multi-faceted virus, the American Academy of Microbiology has issued a new report entitled "FAQ: Influenza."

"Influenza’s staying power as a major public health threat arises directly from its biology. It spreads before you know you’re infected, it mutates rapidly and infections can range in severity from nuisance to lethal. It is one of the only diseases that can shut down public services because it races through communities so quickly," says Jeffery Taubenberger of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, chair of the steering committee for the colloquium upon which the report was based.

The Academy convened 12 of the world’s leading experts on influenza in Oct. 2012 to consider and answer some of the most frequently asked questions about influenza. The resultant report provides non-technical, science-based answers to questions that people may have about the virus.

Some of the questions the report considers include the following:

  • Why does influenza come back year after year?
  • Should I worry about bird flu?
  • Why is getting the flu shot every year so important?
  • Can I get the flu from a flu vaccination?

"FAQ: Influenza" is part of a series of reports designed to provide easy to understand explanations about the roles microbes play in the world, from cleaning up oil spills to causing epidemics, to producing many useful products. The FAQ reports are based on the deliberations of 15-20 microbiology experts who meet for a single day to develop answers to frequently asked questions about a specific topic.


Ann Reid, Shannon Greene. 2013. FAQ: influenza.

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