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Influenza (flu) is a contagious respiratory disease that infects the nose, throat, and lungs and can lead to serious complications, hospitalization, or even death. Pneumonia and bronchitis are examples of serious flu-related complications. The flu also can cause certain health conditions, like diabetes, asthma, and heart and lung disease, to become worse. Anyone can get sick from the flu and spread it to friends and loved ones—even if you consider yourself to be healthy. Getting a flu vaccine is the single best way to protect yourself and your family from this serious disease.
While flu activity usually peaks in January or February, the flu itself is unpredictable. And although there are many different flu viruses, the yearly flu vaccine protects against the three viruses that research suggests will be most common that flu season.
Everyone 6 months and older should get a flu vaccine each year, especially if you are at high risk for complications or you live with or care for someone who is, including the following groups:
For a complete list of all people recommended for flu vaccination, as well as those who are not recommended for flu vaccination, visit Who Should Get Vaccinated.
You should get vaccinated every year for two reasons. The first reason is that because flu viruses are constantly changing, flu vaccines may be updated from one season to the next to protect against the most recent and most commonly circulating viruses. The second reason is that a person's immune protection from vaccination declines over time so annual vaccination is needed for optimal protection. So, yearly vaccination is recommended even for those who received the vaccine during the previous flu season.
Many children need two doses of flu vaccine this season to be fully protected. Some children 6 months through 8 years of age who are getting vaccinated for the first time will need two doses. Some children in this age group who have received a flu vaccine in prior seasons will also need two doses. Your child’s health care provider can tell you whether two doses are recommended for your child.
The 2009 H1N1 virus continues to circulate. It wasn’t added to the seasonal vaccine until the 2010-2011 flu season. This means that children who did not get the 2009 H1N1 vaccine in 2009-2010, or a seasonal flu vaccine in 2010-2011 or later, will not be fully protected from the 2009 H1N1 virus until they receive 2 doses of the 2012-2013 flu vaccine.
Everyone 9 years of age and older needs only one dose of 2012-2013 flu vaccine.
So what are your vaccine options? There are two types of vaccines- the flu shot and the nasal spray.
The viruses in the flu shot are killed, and the viruses in the nasal spray vaccine are weakened, so neither vaccine can cause the flu. A flu shot can have mild side effects, such as soreness or swelling where the vaccine was received, a mild fever, or aches. Mild side effects of the nasal spray can include runny nose, headache, sore throat, and cough. Any side effects you experience are not contagious to others and should disappear within 2 days.
The flu vaccine is safe. People have been receiving flu vaccines for more than 50 years. Vaccine safety is closely monitored annually by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Hundreds of millions of flu vaccines have been given safely to people across the country for decades.
Flu vaccine shipments began in July and will continue throughout the coming months until all vaccine is distributed, so vaccine should be available widely and in many convenient locations. See your doctor or nurse to get the flu vaccine, or seek out other locations where vaccine is being offered, such as pharmacies, health departments, grocery stores and many others. Use the flu vaccine locator as a tool for finding vaccine in your area:
CDC works 24/7 saving lives and protecting people from health threats to have a more secure nation. A US federal agency, CDC helps make the healthy choice the easy choice by putting science and prevention into action. CDC works to help people live longer, healthier and more productive lives.
Last syndicated: January 11, 2013
This content is brought to you by: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)