What is influenza?
Influenza (the flu) is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. It can cause mild to severe illness and, at times, can lead to death. The best way to prevent the flu is by getting a flu vaccination every year.
What is my risk of getting the flu?
In the US, an average of 5 to 20 percent of the population gets the flu every year. More than 200,000 people are hospitalized from flu complications; about 36,000 people die from flu. Some people, such as the elderly, young children and people with certain health conditions, are at high risk for serious flu complications.
Who should get vaccinated?
EVERYONE who is older than six months should receive the flu vaccine. While it is recommended by the Centers for Disease Control that everyone get a flu vaccine each flu season, it's especially important that the groups listed below get vaccinated. These groups are either are at high risk for serious flu-related complications or they are in close contact with people who are at high risk for complications.
Flu vaccination is HIGHLY recommended for:
- Pregnant women
- Children younger than five years old, but especially children younger than two years old
- People 50 years of age and older
- People of any age with certain chronic medical conditions
- People who live in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities
- People who live with or care for those at high risk for complications from the flu, including:
- Healthcare worker
- People in contact with those at high risk for complications from the flu
- Anyone who cares for children or infants
Who should NOT receive the vaccine?
There are some people who should not be vaccinated without first consulting a doctor. If you answer "yes" to any of the questions below, ask your doctor if you should get a flu shot.
- Do you have a severe allergy to chicken eggs?
- Have you had a severe reaction to an influenza vaccination in the past?
- Did you develop Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS) within six weeks of getting the influenza vaccine?
- Is the child you wish to receive the flu vaccine younger than six months old?
- Do you currently have a moderate or severe illness with a fever? If yes, you should wait to get vaccinated until your symptoms go away.
When should I get vaccinated?
Yearly flu vaccinations should begin in September or as soon as the vaccine is available and continue throughout the influenza season into December, January and beyond. This is because the timing and duration of influenza seasons vary. While influenza outbreaks can happen as early as October, most of the time influenza activity peaks in January or later.
Can the flu shot cause the flu?
Some people may say they caught the flu from the flu shot. This is not possible. All of the viruses in the vaccine are dead, so they cannot infect anyone.
When does protection from flu begin?
The vaccine will begin to provide protective effects after one to two weeks. About 70 to 90 percent of healthy people who get the flu vaccine are completely protected against the flu. The other 10 to 30 percent have greatly lessened symptoms of the flu. However, they still may contract some type of flu strain.
What are the side effects of the flu shot?
Side effects of the vaccine are generally mild in adults and rarely occur. The most frequent side effect of vaccination is soreness around the vaccination site for up to two days. This occurs in less than one-third of those vaccinated. A cool compress applied at 15-minute intervals should relieve soreness.
How effective is the vaccine?
The effectiveness of the flu shot depends on the age and health status of the person getting the vaccine. It also depends on the similarity or "match" between the virus or viruses in the vaccine and the viruses circulating in the public.
What does the flu shot cost?
The flu shot is covered by Medicare Part B and many insurance companies.
Reference: Prevention and Control of Influenza, Recommendations of the Advisory Committee on vaccination Practices (ACIP). For more information, visit the Center for Disease Control and Prevention: www.cdc.gov/flu