Influenza (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 flu is different from a cold. The flu usually comes on suddenly. People who have the flu often experience fever, chills, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches, and fatigue (tiredness). Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults.
Some people, such as senior citizens, young children, and people with certain health conditions, are at high risk for serious flu complications. The best way to prevent the flu is by getting vaccinated each year with a flu shot.
The "flu shot" is an inactivated vaccine (containing killed virus) that's given with a needle, usually in the arm.
This season's vaccine protects against the three influenza viruses that research indicates will be most common during the season. This includes an influenza A (H1N1) virus, an influenza A (H3N2) virus, and an influenza B virus.
The vaccine takes effect approximately two weeks after it has been administered as antibodies (substances in the blood that protect against infection) accumulate and provide protection against influenza. Therefore, you may be susceptible to influenza during the two weeks after your flu shot.
Seniors ages 65 and older have a higher risk for developing complications from the flu and account for more than 60% of the flu-related hospitalizations each year. Recent studies show that people ages 65+ may not respond as well to standard-dose flu shots because they do not produce as high of an antibody response following vaccination as do younger people. People with low antibody levels may be at higher risk of catching the flu.
There are vaccines, Fluzone High-Dose and Flaud, designed specifically for patients ages 65+ and works by improving the production of antibodies in order to provide a stronger immune response to the flu than traditional vaccines. Like the standard flu shot, Fluzone High-Dose and Flaud are given as an injection in the arm and the side effects are similar, though some patients may experience increased redness around the injection site.
The CDC recommends everyone ages 6 months and older* get a flu shot this season, including healthy people, and people with chronic conditions. In general, it is recommended that anyone who wants to reduce his or her chances of getting the flu should be vaccinated. It's especially important for some people to get vaccinated, including:
Certain individuals should not be vaccinated without first consulting a healthcare professional. These patients include:
The viruses in the flu shot are killed (inactivated), so you cannot get the flu from a flu shot. Some minor side effects that could occur are:
If these problems occur, they begin soon after the shot and usually last 1 to 2 days. Almost all people who receive influenza vaccine have no serious problems from it.
*The flu shot is available:
At Healthcare Clinic for patients 2 years of age and over.
At Walgreens Pharmacy. Ages vary by state.
Walk in or schedule an appointment at the location nearest you.
If you believe you have a medical emergency, please call 911.
Call the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) at 800-232-4636 or visit www.cdc.gov/vaccines for more vaccine information.
Hamborsky J, Kroger A, Wolfe S, eds. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).Epidemiology and Prevention of Vaccine-Preventable Diseases. 13th ed. Washington, DC: Public Health Foundation, 2015.
Vaccine Information Statement: Influenza Vaccine (Inactivated). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). August 7, 2015. http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/hcp/vis/vis-statements/flu.pdf. Accessed June 2016.
Vaccine Information Statement: Influenza Vaccine (Live, Intranasal). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). August 7, 2015. http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/hcp/vis/vis-statements/flulive.pdf. Accessed June 2016.
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Vaccine subject to availability. Age, state, and health related restrictions apply.