Influenza: 5 Things to Know

Each year, about 20% of the US population is infected with influenza (the flu), leading to 200,000 hospitalizations and tens of thousands of deaths. Annual flu vaccines are the best way to avoid getting the flu and can reduce chances of getting the virus by up to 60%. If you’ve already received the vaccine this year, you have taken a big step towards staying healthy and protecting your community. If you have not, here are some reasons to make a doctor’s appointment or stop by your local pharmacy, today.

1. The flu doesn’t discriminate. Even healthy children and adults can die from influenza. Unlike many other viral respiratory infections, such as the common cold, the flu can cause severe illness and life-threatening complications like bacterial pneumonia and bronchitis. Children younger than five, adults over age 65, pregnant women, and those with chronic medical conditions like asthma and heart disease are at especially high risk of severe complications.

2. You don’t have time to get the flu. Flu usually comes on suddenly and many people experience a high fever, severe cough, headache, weakness, and body aches for one to two weeks. That means weeks of missed school, activities, and/or work. During severe outbreaks, children who have not been vaccinated may need to be excluded from school or child care until the outbreak subsides. Although flu activity usually peaks in January or February, flu season can last until May.

3. If you are pregnant, getting vaccinated helps protect your baby from the flu. You do everything you can during pregnancy to keep yourself and your baby healthy. Since infants younger than six months old are unable to receive the vaccine, getting vaccinated during pregnancy passes along antibodies that help protect infants during flu season. The flu vaccine is safe throughout all stages of pregnancy. Getting sick with the flu while pregnant can increase your risk of preterm labor or birth.

4. You do not want to be the reason an infant or grandparent is hospitalized. You can spread the flu to others one day before symptoms begin and up to one week after you become ill. The virus spreads when an infected person talks, coughs, sneezes, or leaves the flu virus on a surface they touched. Each year, roughly 20,000 children are hospitalized in the U.S. and 100 die from the flu. Adults over 65 are particularly vulnerable, due to their weakened immune systems. If you are a healthcare worker, it’s especially important to protect your patients and their families by getting vaccinated each year.

5. Protection from last year’s flu vaccine has worn off. The flu virus is constantly changing; immunity from a previous flu shot will not protect you from this year’s flu. While the vaccine does not guarantee you will not get the flu, those vaccinated have a decreased risk of hospitalization and death compared to those who are not protected.

Learn more about the flu virus and current activity.

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