In addition to getting vaccinated, follow these three steps to prevent the spread of influenza:
- Clean your hands frequently. The flu virus can live on surfaces anywhere from one to two days. If you get flu virus on your hands and then touch your eyes, nose or mouth, you could get the flu.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. People can touch their face around two to four times per minute. If your hands are contaminated with the flu or another germ, you could potentially get sick.
- Avoid close contact with sick people. If somebody is sick with the flu and they sneeze, the germs can spread three to six feet from the sneeze. By avoiding close contact with those who are coughing and sneezing, you may be able to keep yourself from becoming sick.
If all else fails and you do get the flu, avoid contact with others. It’s no fun to share germs. Stay home and call your healthcare provider. Do not go to work or school until you are at least 24 hours fever-free without taking any fever-reducing medication.
Frequently Asked Questions About Influenza
What is influenza?
Influenza is a highly infectious viral illness that typically begins suddenly with fever, sore throat, a dry cough, muscle aches and pains, tiredness and headache. Symptoms can range from mild to severe. Some people can be infected and spread the disease without feeling ill. The illness can be spread by an infected person a day before he/she feels ill.
Can I get the flu from the vaccine?
The influenza vaccine is made from inactivated viruses and can NOT cause illness. About two weeks after vaccination, antibodies develop that protect against influenza virus infection. Flu vaccines will not protect against flu-like illnesses caused by non-influenza viruses. The incubation period for flu is 1-3 days; while it takes approximately two WEEKS for the vaccine to be effective.
What if the vaccine doesn’t cover all the strains of the flu?
Although the vaccine may not be perfect for the predominant virus strains circulating each year, getting the vaccine does provide some protection, meaning that those who are vaccinated and subsequently exposed to the flu are less likely to have severe complications, including hospitalization and death, if they contract the flu.
What does taking the flu vaccine do to help, when I have never had the flu?
Even if you don’t experience flu symptoms, you might be a carrier and can pass the disease onto others. The flu strains are constantly changing, so even if you have not contracted flu in the past, this does not mean that you are immune from this year’s strain(s). You could have a sub-clinical case of the flu (meaning you have the flu virus, but do NOT have signs and symptoms of illness) and can still transmit the virus to others, who may be at risk for complications if they get the flu.
Can I get the flu vaccine if I’m pregnant or breastfeeding?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists urge all pregnant women to be immunized. By getting a flu vaccine, a breastfeeding mother or mother-to-be not only protects herself but also her baby, who benefits from protective antibodies during the first months of life.
Can I get the flu vaccine if I have a chronic condition (such as diabetes, autoimmune disorder, cancer, etc.)?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) specifically recommends the influenza vaccine be given annually to all adults at risk for medical complications from influenza or more likely to require medical care, such as adults with chronic conditions. The CDC recommends that high risk populations and those that care for them (health care personnel) take an annual flu vaccine for protection from seasonal flu outbreaks and the complications which can result, such as bacterial pneumonia.
What are some key facts about influenza immunization?
Since the 1950s, there have been safe, effective vaccines produced to protect people from seasonal influenza illness. The seasonal vaccine is manufactured each year based upon the viral strains that have been circulating globally and are predicted to be the most prevalent during the flu season. The inactivated vaccine is administered by injection into the arm. It is a “killed” vaccine and is not able to cause an infection; instead, it stimulates the immune system to mount a response to the virus.
Most people can take an influenza immunization. Those who should not take the vaccine are individuals with a severe egg allergy or history of Guillain-Barre syndrome within six weeks of a previous dose of influenza vaccine.