No one likes getting the flu, but for people at higher risk for complications it can be very serious, even life threatening. Stay healthy and help keep the people closest to you healthy too by getting a seasonal flu vaccine.
What is influenza?
Influenza is commonly referred to as "the flu." It is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses that infect the nose, throat and lungs. The flu 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 vaccine each year.
What are the symptoms of flu?
Symptoms of flu may include fever (though not everyone with flu will have a fever), cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, fatigue (tiredness), chills, and sometimes diarrhea and vomiting. Symptoms usually appear 1 to 3 days after exposure. Although most people are ill for less than a week, some people have complications and may need to be hospitalized.
Who gets influenza?
Influenza can infect persons of all ages. The flu can be especially serious for babies, children, pregnant women, adults 65 years and older, people with certain long-term medical conditions (e.g., lung disease, heart disease, cancer, or diabetes), or those with weak immune systems. However, even healthy people can get the flu and should protect themselves by getting the flu vaccine every year.
How is it spread?
The flu virus spreads easily through exposure to discharges from the nose and throat of an infected person. It is often spread by coughing, sneezing or talking. A person might also get the flu by touching a surface or object that has the flu virus on it, and then touching their own mouth, eyes or possibly their nose.
When and for how long is a person able to spread the disease?
Influenza can spread from one person to another beginning one day before symptoms appear through about a week after the onset of symptoms. This means that you may be able to pass on the flu to someone else before you know you are sick, as well as while you are sick.
Who should be vaccinated against influenza?
The single best way to prevent the flu is to get a flu vaccine every season. Everyone age 6 months and older should get a flu vaccine each year. This recommendation has been in place since 2010, when CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) voted for “universal” flu vaccination.
Getting vaccinated every season is important because flu viruses are constantly changing. The influenza vaccine is updated every season to provide protection from the flu viruses that are likely to be circulating and causing disease. Also, your body’s level of immunity from a vaccine received last season is expected to have declined. Getting vaccinated every year before influenza activity begins, in September for example, can help protect you once the season starts in your community. However, it’s never too late to get vaccinated.
While everyone should get a flu vaccine each flu season, it’s especially important that certain people get vaccinated either because they are at high risk of having serious flu-related complications or because they live with or care for people at high risk for developing flu-related complications.
Who is at high risk for developing flu complications?
The flu is a serious disease, especially for certain age groups and people with certain chronic health conditions, such as:
The flu can lead to complications such as pneumonia and bronchitis and can make chronic health problems worse. To help prevent the spread of the flu, those who live with people in a high risk group and healthcare workers who provide care to high risk patients should also receive an annual influenza shot.
Infants younger than 6 months are too young to get a flu vaccine, but they are at higher risk for complications, hospitalization and death from the flu. Therefore, it is especially important that family members and other people who care for young infants get vaccinated to help ensure that they don’t spread the infection to them.
There are some people who should not get a flu vaccine, for instance, people who have had a severe reaction to a flu vaccine or any of its components in the past. For more information about who should and who should not get vaccinated, visit http://www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/whoshouldvax.htm.
Why do some people get the flu after being vaccinated?
If you get flulike symptoms soon after getting vaccinated, it can mean you may have been exposed to the flu before you received your vaccine, or during the two-week period it takes the body to gain protectio