Each year more than 200,000 people in the United States are hospitalized
from seasonal influenza-related complications. On average, 5% to 20% of the
population gets the flu each year. There are things you can do to prevent
getting sick this season.
What is seasonal influenza (flu)?
Seasonal influenza, commonly called “the flu,” is caused by influenza viruses,
which infect the respiratory tract (i.e., the nose, throat, lungs). Unlike many
other viral respiratory infections, such as the common cold, the flu can cause
severe illness and life-threatening complications in many people.
· The flu can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to
death. The flu is different from a cold. The flu usually comes on suddenly.
Some of the complications caused by flu include bacterial pneumonia,
dehydration, and worsening of chronic medical conditions, such as
congestive heart failure, asthma, or diabetes. Children may get sinus
problems and ear infections as complications from the flu.
· The seasonal flu is not the same as the “stomach flu.” While vomiting,
diarrhea, and being nauseous or “sick to your stomach” can sometimes be
related to the flu – more commonly in children than adults – these problems
are rarely the main symptoms of influenza. The flu is a respiratory disease
and not a stomach or intestinal disease.
What will the flu shot protect me against?
While there are many different flu viruses, the flu vaccine is designed to
protect against the main flu strains that research indicates will cause the
most illness during the flu season.
Who should get vaccinated?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that
everyone 6 months and older should get a flu vaccine each year.
While everyone should get a flu vaccine each flu season, it’s especially
important that the following groups get vaccinated either because they are at
high risk of having serious flu-related complications or because they live
with or care for people at high risk for developing flu-related complications:
Children younger than 5, but especially children younger than 2 years old
People 50 years of age and older
People of any age with certain chronic medical conditions
People who live in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities
People who live with or care for those at high risk for complications from flu,
1. Household contacts of persons at high risk for complications from the
2. Household contacts and out of home caregivers of children less than 6
months of age (these children are too young to be vaccinated)
What actions can I take to protect myself and my family against the flu this
Take everyday preventive actions with your family to stop the spread of
o Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.
o Wash your hands often with soap and water.
o Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth because this is how germs
o Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
o If you are sick with flu-like illness, stay home for at least 24 hours after
your fever is gone, unless you are seeking medical attention.
Common Flu Myths:
Misconceptions about the flu spread as easily as the flu itself.
Myth No. 1: The flu vaccine can give you the flu.
A flu shot cannot cause flu illness. The influenza viruses contained in a flu
shot are inactivated (killed), which means they cannot cause infection. The
most common side effect of seasonal flu shots in adults has been soreness at
the spot where the shot was given, which usually lasts less than two days.
Some people have cold-like symptoms, including sniffles, headache, runny
nose, sore throat, cough, and body aches for a day or two after getting the
flu shot. In some cases, you may also experience a low-grade fever.
Myth No. 2: The vaccine is only for the elderly.
The vaccine is for anyone who wants to reduce his or her chance of getting
Myth No. 3: Going out in cold weather causes the flu.
While the influenza virus is more prevalent during the winter months, cold
weather does not cause the flu.
Myth No. 4: There’s no treatment except rest, aspirin and mom’s chicken
There are now antiviral medications available from your physician if you
come down with the flu. Antivirals will only have some benefit if started
within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms. The
CDC also recommends that aspirin not be given to children under the age of
18, as this may cause a rare but serious illness called Reye’s syndrome.
Myth No. 5: Take antibiotics to fight the flu.
Antibiotics are not effective against viruses like influenza. Doctors also warn
that taking antibiotics will not prevent you from developing pneumonia, and
it may increase your chances of getting a resistant strain of the disease.
For more Information or to find a clinic near you go to: www.healthcare.utah.edu