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Flu Shots

Following the flu

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 each year. 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 complications, and; 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 complications.

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Vaccination

  • There are two types of vaccines:
    • The "flu shot"— an inactivated vaccine (containing killed virus) that is given with a needle, usually in the arm. The flu shot is approved for use in people older than 6 months, including healthy people and people with chronic medical conditions.
    • The nasal-spray flu vaccine — a vaccine made with live, weakened flu viruses that do not cause the flu.  FluMist is approved for use in healthy people 2-49 years of age who are not pregnant.  The Flu Mist is NOT available through the Health Department but if it is an option for you, check with your provider to see where you can get it.

About 2 weeks after vaccination, antibodies that provide protection against the flu develop in the body.

  • When to Get Vaccinated
    Yearly flu vaccination should begin in September or as soon as 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.

  • What to do if you cannot get a flu shot
    Remember, the flu is different from a cold. The flu usually comes on suddenly and may include these symptoms: Fever, headache, fatigue, dry cough, sore throat, body aches

    • The flu is spread when a person who has the flu coughs, sneezes, or speaks and sends flu virus into the air, and other people inhale the virus.
    • Influenza may be spread when a person touches a surface that has flu viruses on it – a door handle, for instance – and then touches his or her nose or mouth.
    • A person can spread the flu starting one day before he or she feels sick. Adults can continue to pass the flu virus to others for another three to seven days after symptoms start. Children can pass the virus for longer than seven days.
    • WASH YOUR HANDS. Since flu is spread by person-to-person-contact, be sure to wash your hands periodically to limit possibility of spreading the virus yourself or from exposing yourself to it from someone else. Simple but good advice.

If you feel you already have the flu you should:

  • Rest

  • Drink plenty of fluids

  • Avoid using alcohol and tobacco

  • Take medication to relieve symptoms of flu – antibiotics do NOT work

  • If at all possible – stay at home – do not go to work

  • Cover your mouth when coughing – flu is spread person-to-person

  • Wash hands frequently