Influenza ("flu") is a serious disease caused by a virus that spreads
from infected persons to the nose or throat of others. Influenza can
cause fever, chills, headache, muscle aches, sore throat, and cough.
Anyone can get the flu. Most people are ill with flu for only a few
days, but some get much sicker and need to be hospitalized. Influenza
causes thousands of deaths each year in the United States. Influenza
vaccine can prevent the flu.
Who should get influenza vaccine?
People 6 months of age and older at risk for getting a serious case
of influenza or influenza complications, e.g., pneumonia, and people in
close contact with them (including all household members) should get the
An annual flu shot is recommended for:
Everyone 50 years of age and older
Residents of long-term care facilities housing persons with chronic medical conditions
Anyone who has a long-term health problem with:
metabolic disease, such as diabetes
anemia, and other blood disorders
Anyone with a weakened immune system due to:
HIV/AIDS or another disease that affects the immune system
Long-term treatment with drugs such as steroids
Cancer treatment with radiation or drugs
Anyone 6 months to 18 years of age on long-term aspirin treatment (who could develop Reye Syndrome if they catch the flu)
Physicians, nurses, family members, or anyone else coming in close contact with people at risk of serious influenza
An annual flu shot is also encouraged for:
Healthy children 6-23 months, and their household contacts and out-of-home caretakers
Household contacts and out-of-home caretakers of infants less than 6 months of age
People who provide essential community services, e.g., police, firemen
People at high risk for flu complications who travel to
the Southern hemisphere between April and September, or who travel to
the tropics or in organized tourist groups at any time
People living in residence halls or under other crowded conditions, to prevent outbreaks
Anyone who wants to reduce their chance of catching the flu
When should I get influenza vaccine?
Most people need only
one flu shot each year to prevent influenza. Children under 9 years old
getting flu vaccine for the first time should get 2 flu shots, one
The best time to get a flu shot is in October or November. But
because the flu season typically peaks in January and March, vaccination
in December or even later can be beneficial in most years.
Some people should be vaccinated beginning in September*:
People age 65 years or older
People at high risk from flu and its complications
Household contacts of these groups
Health care workers
Children between 6 months and 9 years of age getting the flu shot for the first time
What are the risks from influenza vaccine?
A vaccine, like any
medication, is capable of causing serious problems, including severe
allergic reactions. The risk of a vaccine causing serious harm or death
is extremely small. Serious problems from the flu vaccine are very rare. The viruses in the injectable influenza vaccine have been killed so that you cannot get influenza from a flu shot.
Soreness, redness, or swelling at the injection site
If these problems occur, they usually begin soon after the shot and last 1-2 days.
Life-threatening allergic reactions are very rare. If they do
occur, it is within a few minutes to a few hours after the injection.
In 1976, swine flu vaccine was associated with a severe paralytic
illness called Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS). Influenza vaccines since
then have not been clearly linked to GBS. However, if there is a risk of
GBS from the current influenza vaccines, it is estimated at 1 to 2
cases per million persons vaccinated-much less than the risk of severe
influenza which can be prevented by the immunization.
What should I look for in the event of a moderate or severe reaction?
Look for any unusual condition, such as:
Hoarseness or wheezing
Fast heart rate
What should I do if symptoms occur?
Call a doctor or get the person to the doctor right away.
Tell your health care provider what you experienced, the date and time it happened, and when the vaccination was given.
Ask your health care provider or health department to report the
reaction by filing a Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) form
or call VAERS yourself at 1-800-822-7967 or visit their website at www.vaers.org.
How can I learn more?
Ask your health care provider. They will give you a Vaccine
Information Statement (VIS), package insert, or suggest other sources of
Contact the LSSU Health Center 906-635-2110
Contact your local health department.
Contact the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):