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Feature:
Flu Season

Time to Get Your Seasonal Flu Shot

girl sneezing into her sleeve

Give Your Sneeze the Sleeve!

If you don't have a tissue to cover your mouth and nose, cough or sneeze into your elbow, not your hands.

Flu season runs from October 2014 through May 2015. The best way to avoid catching the flu is by getting a flu vaccination each year. Here's what you need to know.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends a yearly flu vaccine for everyone 6 months of age and older as the first and most important step in protecting against this serious disease.

For the 2014-2015 flu season, the flu vaccine provides protection against three viruses: A (H1N1), A (H3N2), and B.

While there are many different flu viruses, the seasonal flu vaccine is designed to protect against the top three or four flu viruses that research indicates will cause the most illness during the flu season.

People should begin getting vaccinated soon after flu vaccine becomes available, ideally by October, to ensure that as many people as possible are protected before flu season begins.

Flu vaccines are designed to protect against flu viruses that experts predict will be the most common during the upcoming season. Three kinds of flu viruses commonly circulate among people today: influenza A (H1N1) viruses, influenza A (H3N2) viruses, and influenza B viruses. Each year, one or two flu viruses of each kind are used to produce the seasonal influenza vaccine.

All of the 2014-2015 influenza vaccine is made to protect against the following three viruses:

  • an A/California/7/2009 (H1N1)pdm09-like virus
  • an A/Texas/50/2012 (H3N2)-like virus
  • a B/Massachusetts/2/2012-like virus.

Some of the 2014-2015 flu vaccine also protects against an additional B virus (B/Brisbane/60/2008-like virus).

Vaccines that give protection against three viruses are called trivalent vaccines. Vaccines that give protection against four viruses are called quadrivalent vaccines.

More information about influenza vaccines is available at www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/vaccine/index.htm

Signs and Symptoms of Flu

People who have the flu often feel some or all of these signs and symptoms:

  • Fever* or feeling feverish/chills
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue (very tired)
  • Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults.

*It's important to note that not everyone with flu will have a fever.

How flu spreads

Most experts believe that flu viruses spread mainly by droplets made when people with flu cough, sneeze, or talk. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby. Less often, a person might also get flu by touching a surface or object that has flu virus on it and then touching their own mouth, eyes, or possibly their nose.

Period of contagiousness

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. Most healthy adults may be able to infect others beginning one day before symptoms develop and up to 5 to 7 days after becoming sick. Some people, especially young children and people with weakened immune systems, might be able to infect others for an even longer time.

How serious is the flu?

Certain people are at greater risk for serious complications if they get the flu. This includes older people, young children, pregnant women, and people with certain health conditions (such as asthma, diabetes, or heart disease), and persons who live in facilities like nursing homes.

Flu seasons are unpredictable and can be severe. Over a period of 30 years, between 1976 and 2006, estimates of flu-associated deaths in the United States range from a low of about 3,000 to a high of about 49,000 people.

Preventing seasonal flu: Get vaccinated

The single best way to prevent the flu is to get a flu vaccine each season. There are two types of flu vaccines:

  • "Flu shots"—inactivated vaccines (containing killed virus) that are given with a needle. There are three flu shots being produced for the United States market now.
  • The nasal-spray flu vaccine—a vaccine made with live, weakened flu viruses that is given as a nasal spray (sometimes called LAIV for "Live Attenuated Influenza Vaccine"). The viruses in the nasal spray vaccine do not cause the flu. LAIV is approved for use in healthy people 2 to 49 years of age who are not pregnant.
Woman receiving flu vaccine nasal mist from nurse

Find Flu Clinics Near You at CDC's Flu website

Use the Flu Vaccine Finder at www.flu.gov/prevention-vaccination/ vaccination/index.html to find nearby locations offering flu shots or nasal spray flu vaccine. Locations are being added and updated throughout the season by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).


To Find Out More

Fall 2014 Issue: Volume 9 Number 3 Page 10-11