What is Influenza (also called Flu)?
Source: Center For Disease Control (CDC)
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 this illness is
by getting a flu vaccination each fall.
Every year in the United States, on average:
- 5% to 20% of the population gets the flu;
- more than 200,000 people are hospitalized from flu
- about 36,000 people die from flu.
Some people, such as older people, young children, and people
with certain health conditions, are at high risk for serious flu
Symptoms of Flu
Symptoms of flu include:
- fever (usually high)
- extreme tiredness
- dry cough
- sore throat
- runny or stuffy nose
- muscle aches
- Stomach symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, and
diarrhea, also can occur but are more common in children
Complications of Flu
Complications of flu can include bacterial pneumonia,
dehydration, and worsening of chronic medical conditions, such
as congestive heart failure, asthma, or diabetes. Children may
get sinus problems and ear infections.
How Flu Spreads
Flu viruses spread in respiratory droplets caused by coughing
and sneezing. They usually spread from person to person, though
sometimes people become infected by touching something with flu
viruses on it and then touching their mouth or nose. Most
healthy adults may be able to infect others beginning 1 day
before symptoms develop and up to 5 days
after becoming sick. That means that
you can pass on the flu to someone else before you know you are
sick, as well as while you are sick.
Preventing the Flu: Get Vaccinated
The single best way to prevent the flu is to get a flu
vaccination each fall. There are two types of vaccines:
- • The "flu shot" – an inactivated vaccine (containing
killed virus) that is given with a needle. The flu
shot is approved for use in people older than 6
months, including healthy people and people with chronic
- The nasal-spray flu vaccine – a vaccine made with live,
weakened flu viruses that do not cause the flu (sometimes
called LAIV for “Live Attenuated Influenza Vaccine”). LAIV is
approved for use in healthy people 5 years to 49 years of age
who are not pregnant.
About two weeks after vaccination, antibodies develop that
protect against influenza virus infection. Flu vaccines will not
protect against influenza-like illnesses caused by other
When to Get Vaccinated
October or November is the best time to get vaccinated, but
getting vaccinated in December or even later can still be
beneficial. Flu season can begin as early as October and last as
late as May.
Who Should Get Vaccinated?
In general, anyone who wants to reduce their chances of
getting the flu can get vaccinated. However, certain people
should get vaccinated each year. They are either people who are
at high risk of having serious flu complications or people who
live with or care for those at high risk for serious
complications. People who should get vaccinated each year are:
People who should get vaccinated each year are:
1.) People at high risk for complications from the
- People 65 years and older;
- People who live in nursing homes and other long-term care
facilities that house those with long-term illnesses;
- Adults and children 6 months and older with chronic heart
or lung conditions, including asthma;
- Adults and children 6 months and older who needed regular
medical care or were in a hospital during the previous year
because of a metabolic disease (like diabetes), chronic kidney
disease, or weakened immune system (including immune system
problems caused by medicines or by infection with human
immunodeficiency virus [HIV/AIDS]);
- Children 6 months to 18 years of age who are on long-term
aspirin therapy. (Children given aspirin while they have
influenza are at risk of Reye syndrome.);
- Women who will be pregnant during the influenza season;
- All children 6 to 23 months of age;
- People with any condition that can compromise respiratory
function or the handling of respiratory secretions (that is, a
condition that makes it hard to breathe or swallow, such as
brain injury or disease, spinal cord injuries, seizure
disorders, or other nerve or muscle disorders.)
2.) People 50 to 64 years of age. Because
nearly one-third of people 50 to 64 years of age in the United
States have one or more medical conditions that place them at
increased risk for serious flu complications, vaccination is
recommended for all persons aged 50 to 64.
3.) People who can transmit flu to others at high
risk for complications. Any person in close contact
with someone in a high-risk group (see above) should get
vaccinated. This includes all health-care workers, household
contacts and out-of-home caregivers of children 6 to 23 months
of age, and close contacts of people 65 years and older.
Is CDC recommending that flu shots go
to “priority groups”, as was recommended last season?
To ensure that those who are at highest risk of complications
from influenza have access to vaccine this season, CDC
recommends that people in certain priority groups receive
inactivated influenza vaccine (i.e., the “flu shot”) until
October 24, 2005:
- people aged 65 years and older, with and without chronic
- residents of long-term care facilities
- people aged 2–64 years with chronic health conditions
- children aged 6–23 months
- pregnant women
- health-care personnel who provide direct patient care
- household contacts and out-of-home caregivers of children
less than 6 months of age
Beginning October 24, 2005, all persons can get a flu
Use of the Nasal Spray Flu Vaccine
It should be noted that vaccination with the
nasal-spray flu vaccine is always an option for healthy persons
aged 5-49 years who are not pregnant. This vaccine is not
subject to prioritization and can be given to healthy 5-49 year
olds at any time.
People Displaced by Hurricane Katrina
Influenza vaccination is recommended for all people 6
months of age and older who have been displaced by hurricane
Katrina and are living in crowded group settings. See
Who Should Not Be Vaccinated
Some people should not be vaccinated without first consulting
a physician. They include:
- People who have a severe allergy to chicken eggs.
- People who have had a severe reaction to an influenza
vaccination in the past.
- People who developed
Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) within 6 weeks of getting an
influenza vaccine previously.
- Children less than 6 months of age (influenza vaccine is
not approved for use in this age group).
- People who have a moderate or severe illness with a fever
should wait to get vaccinated until their symptoms lessen.
If you have questions about whether you should get a flu
vaccine, consult your health-care provider.