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Seasonal Flu Information

Below you will find the latest facts and information on the seasonal flu.

Seasonal Flu

Get the Facts about the Seasonal Flu

It is estimated that more than 25 million cases of influenza are reported each year- leading to 200,000 hospitalizations and 36,000 deaths annually in the United States. Annual flu vaccines are the best defense against the flu for children and adults. Below are some facts about the seasonal flu and seasonal flu vaccine.

What is the flu?

Seasonal influenza, or “the flu,” is a contagious infection of the nose, throat and lungs that is caused by the influenza virus. Sometimes people confuse cold and flu, which share some of the same symptoms and typically occur at the same time of the year. However, the two diseases are very different. Most people get a cold several times each year, and the flu only once every several years.

What are common symptoms of the flu?

Symptoms of the flu include fever (could be high), headache, tiredness, dry cough, sore throat, stuffy nose, congestion, muscle aches and stiffness. More serious symptoms can also include shortness of breath, wheezing, fatigue, vomiting, malaise, sweating, dizziness, croupy cough and loss of appetite.

How is the flu diagnosed?

The flu is most often diagnosed with an antigen detection test, which is done by swabbing the nose and throat.

How can I prevent the flu?

An annual flu vaccine is the best defense against the flu. Experts also recommend several other steps to stay healthy during the flu season such as frequent hand washing, drinking plenty of water or liquids, and coughing or sneezing into a shirt sleeve instead of the hands.

Is there a cure or treatment available for the flu?

Mild flu is often treated with rest, medications to relieve symptoms and plenty of fluids. If the flu is diagnosed within 48 hours of when the symptoms begin, antiviral medications may help shorten the duration and severity of the illness. In most people, the flu lasts for seven to 10 days.

When do I call my doctor if I believe that I have the flu?

Serious illness from the seasonal flu is more likely in certain groups of people including people 65 and older, pregnant women, people with certain chronic medical conditions and young children. Anyone who is in these high-risk categories should immediately contact their doctor if they believe that they have the flu. Also, in children with the flu, parents should contact the doctor immediately if the child develops an oral temperature of 101 degrees Fahrenheit, are unable to keep fluids down, and/or become less responsive or lethargic.

Additional Seasonal Flu Resources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

Are You at High Risk for Serious Illness from Flu? (CDC)

Seasonal Flu Vaccine

Get the Facts about the Seasonal Flu Vaccine

Who should get a seasonal flu vaccine?

The seasonal flu vaccine is recommended for everyone six months and older. It is estimated that more than 25 million cases of seasonal influenza are reported each year in the United States. Getting a flu vaccine is the best defense against the flu. While the seasonal flu vaccine is recommended for everyone six months and older, it is strongly encouraged for those at highest risk for the seasonal flu including:

  • People over 50,
  • Children between six months and two years,
  • Women who are more than three months pregnant during the flu season,
  • Anyone living in a long-term care facility and
  • Anyone with chronic heart, lung or kidney conditions, diabetes or a weakened immune system.

What is the high-dose flu vaccine and who is it for?

Fluzone High-Dose is a new influenza vaccine that is made specifically for people 65 years or older. The vaccine is injectable and includes the three strains of influenza that are in the regular vaccine this season. It contains four times the amount of antigen in regular flu shots. The high dose is designed to create a stronger boost to the immune system. CDC does not recommend a preference over this vaccine or the regular vaccine for people 65 years or older. The high-dose vaccine costs $35. It is also covered by Medicare, Part B.

Why do young, healthy adults need to get the flu shot since they are not at a higher risk?

The Center for Disease Control recommends that everyone six months and older are vaccinated for the flu every year, including young, healthy adults. Healthy adults should get an annual flu shot because they can be infectious to others with weaker immune systems. Most healthy adults become infectious beginning one day before showing symptoms and continue to be infectious five to seven days after becoming sick. In some cases, symptoms may never appear. Therefore, the virus spreads without knowing you are sick. Getting an annual flu vaccination is the safest way to protect yourself and those around you from influenza.

How does the seasonal flu vaccine work?

Flu vaccine helps your body fight the viruses that cause the flu. It does this by teaching the immune system to recognize flu viruses, so that it is “primed” or ready, to fight the disease if you are exposed to it. About two weeks after vaccination, antibodies develop that protect against the influenza virus.

How well does the seasonal flu vaccine work?

Most of the time, the seasonal flu vaccine will prevent the flu. In scientific studies, the effectiveness of the seasonal flu vaccine has ranged from 70% to 90% in healthy people younger than age 65 when there is a good match between circulating viruses and those in the vaccine. The vaccine may be less effective in older people or people with weakened immune systems. However, these people still benefit from getting the vaccine because it helps prevent severe illness, hospitalization and death from the flu.

Are there side effects from the seasonal flu vaccine?

The most common side effects are soreness or redness where the shot was given. These symptoms go away in a few days. Other side effects such as fever or aches are extremely rare. The risk of severe allergic reaction to a flu shot is less than 1 in 4 million.

Can the seasonal flu vaccine give me the flu?

No. The ingredients in the vaccine cannot cause the flu. The flu viruses in the vaccine are killed.

When should I get a seasonal flu vaccination?

October and November are the best months to get vaccinated, but December is not too late in most years.

Additional Resources

Learn More About the Flu
Symptoms Fever - may be high, Headache, Muscle aches and stiffness, Sore throat, Stuffy, congested nose, Tiredness, Chills, Croupy cough, Dizziness, Fatigue, Loss of appetite, Malaise, Nasal discharge, Shortness of breath, Sweating, Vomiting
Encyclopedia Flu, Pneumonia, Influenza Vaccine
Tools & Resources Flu Quiz
Germ Prevention
Links CDC Flu Site
Montgomery County Government