Influenza (commonly called “the flu”) is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses, and it can cause mild to severe illness. Each year, millions of people are sickened, hundreds of thousands are hospitalized, and thousands to tens of thousands of people die from flu.
Getting an annual flu vaccine is the first and best available way to protect yourself and your family from influenza (also known as the flu) and its potentially serious complications. Flu vaccination can reduce flu illnesses, doctors’ visits, and missed work and school due to flu, as well as prevent flu-related hospitalizations. The more people who get vaccinated, the more people will be protected from flu, including older people, young children, pregnant women and people with certain long-term health problems who are more vulnerable to serious flu illness. Some people are unable to receive a flu vaccine, and having those around them vaccinated helps protect them from influenza.
Symptoms of the Flu
Flu is different from a cold and usually comes on suddenly. People who are sick with flu often feel some or all of these symptoms:
· Fever or feeling feverish/chills (It’s important to note that not everyone with flu will have a fever.)
Runny or stuffy nose
Muscle or body aches
Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults.
When Should You Get a Flu Shot?
The timing of flu season is unpredictable, but seasonal flu activity can begin as early as October and last as late as May.
You should get a flu vaccine before flu begins spreading in your community. It takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies that protect against flu to develop in the body. CDC recommends that people get a flu vaccine by the end of October. Getting vaccinated later, however, can still be beneficial and vaccination should continue to be offered throughout the flu season, even into January or later.
Even healthy people get the flu, and it can be serious. Everyone age six months and older should get a flu vaccine. Fisher-Titus recommends that you schedule a visit with your primary care provider to get a flu shot. You can schedule your annual check-up at the same time, if you haven’t already done so. If you need a primary care provider, call 419-660-2900 or visit fishertitusmedicalcare.com. Same-day appointments are available. For those who are a Medicare beneficiary, your seasonal flu vaccine is usually covered, but check with the provider of the flu shot before getting it.
This season, protect yourself — and those around you — from influenza. For more information, visit cdc.gov/flu.
Tami Binger, BSN, CIC, in an infection preventionist at Fisher-Titus Medical Center. She is certified in infection control.