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It's Flu Season and Vaccination is Your Best Protection

(October 14, 2016)

Flu season has begun and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone 6 months of age and older get an annual influenza vaccination. And yet, last year less than half of all Americans got a vaccination. Why take chances with your health? Vaccination is the best way to protect yourself and reduce spread of the flu.

Influenza, or the flu, is a serious and contagious respiratory illness. Each year, approximately 5 to 20 percent of U.S. residents get the flu – or 16 to 63 million people. Depending on the flu virus’ severity during the influenza season, deaths as a result of flu complications (such as pneumonia) can range from 3,000 to more than 40,000 people nationwide.

Flu season begins as early as October, usually peaks around January and February, but may not end until as late as May. The seasonal flu vaccine is effective for about six months, so it’s recommended that you get vaccinated as soon as the vaccine is available.

Those at greater risk of developing influenza-related complications, such as pneumonia or hospitalization, include older adults and individuals with chronic health conditions, including asthma, COPD, diabetes and heart disease.

Here are three ways you can fight the flu:

1. Get vaccinated now (if you haven’t already)

Vaccination is the best way to protect yourself and those around you from the flu. Get the facts about flu shots. Pneumonia can be a deadly complication related to the flu. Talk to your doctor about whether you should also consider getting vaccinated for pneumonia.

Vaccination against influenza is especially important for pregnant women, people 50 years of age and older, and those with chronic health conditions, including asthma and COPD, as they are at a higher risk of developing influenza-related complications. Parents should be aware that the CDC recommends children 6 months through 8 years of age receiving a flu shot for the first time receive two doses approximately one month apart for optimal protection. Parents should have their children immunized as soon as the vaccine is available in their area, and not wait until later in the flu season.

Note on FluMist: FluMist is a nasal spray that was previously approved to protect people from getting the flu. Experts recently reversed these guidelines and no longer recommend the nasal spray flu vaccine based on new research showing it did not offer as much protection against flu as the traditional vaccine shot.

To find a flu vaccine near you, visit the Flu Vaccine Finder.

2. Get prompt medical attention if you develop flu symptoms

Flu symptoms often appear suddenly. People at higher risk of complications, such as those with chronic lung disease, should seek prompt medical attention. Treatment may include antiviral medicine which can reduce flu symptoms if started within a day or two of getting sick. Symptoms of influenza can include:

  • High fever
  • Headache, muscle aches and joint pain
  • Cough (usually dry)
  • Chills
  • Sore throat
  • Nasal congestion and runny nose
  • Fatigue

Learn more about diagnosing and treating the flu.

3. Help stop the spread of the flu

Help prevent other people from catching your flu. Always cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your elbow when coughing or sneezing. Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly with soap and warm water; avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth; and clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs like the flu. Stay home from work, school and public places when you are sick. Most people recover from the flu within one or two weeks, but others, especially older adults, may feel weak for a long time even after other symptoms go away.

Learn more about protecting yourself and loved ones this flu season.

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