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Seasonal Flu (Influenza) Information
Definition: Influenza or "flu" is an infection of the respiratory tract that can affect millions of people every year. It is highly contagious and occurs mainly in the late fall, winter, or early spring. Influenza is spread from person-to-person through mists or sprays of infectious respiratory secretions caused by coughing and sneezing. Influenza affects all age groups and causes moderate to severe illness, with complications such as pneumonia, hospitalization, and death. Each year about 36,000 Americans die because of influenza or influenza related pneumonia. Over 90% of the deaths occur in persons aged 65 years and older. Pneumonia and influenza together are the 6th most common cause of death in the United States.
Symptoms: Influenza is an illness which is different from, and usually much more severe than, the "common cold." It takes about 1-2 days from the time of exposure to the virus to the development of symptoms. Common symptoms include sudden fever, often as high as 104° F, with shaking chills, moderate or severe muscle and joint aches and pains, sweating, a dry cough, nasal congestion, sore throat, and headache. In addition, people infected with influenza complain of moderate or severe malaise and fatigue. Illness can last for up to 1-2 weeks, although fever generally lasts only 3-8 days.
Vaccination: The best way to protect you from influenza is to receive an annual flu immunization. The influenza vaccine is an inactivated (killed) viral vaccine. The influenza vaccine is a safe and effective vaccine. You cannot get influenza by receiving an influenza shot with the inactivated vaccine. As with almost any type of medication or medical procedure, there may be side effects of the vaccine. The most common type of side effect is soreness at the injection site. Soreness can last up to two days, is mild, and rarely will impair daily activities.
Who Should Not Get the Influenza Vaccine: You should avoid the influenza vaccination and talk to your physician if you are considering influenza vaccination and you have or have had: An allergic reaction to chicken eggs, (welts, tongue swelling, difficulty breathing, low blood pressure, etc.), or a previous serious reaction to an influenza shot, or a rare paralytic disorder called Guillain-Barre Syndrome which was thought caused by a previous flu shot , or an acute illness with fever.
How to avoid getting the flu virus: Wash hands regularly & thoroughly, avoid touching eyes, nose or mouth. Don't share eating utensils, drinks, towels or other items. Avoid crowds where people may spread the virus. If you are sick, stay home. Get your annual flu shot.
Page last updated: 09/19/12