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FAQs

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  • What is the flu?

    The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by a virus that infects the nose, throat, and lungs. It 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. People who have flu often feel some or all of these symptoms. 

     

    • Fever* or feeling feverish/chills
    • Cough
    • Sore throat
    • Runny or stuffy nose
    • Muscle or body aches
    • Headaches
    • Fatigue (tiredness)
    • Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults.
  • What is the difference between Type A and Type B flu strains?

    There are two main types of human influenza (flu) virus: Types A and B. nfluenza A viruses can be broken down into sub-types depending on the genes that make up the surface proteins. Over the course of a flu season, different types (A & B) and subtypes (influenza A) of influenza circulate and cause illness.
  • How bad will the flu season be this year?

    According to the CDC: "Flu seasons are unpredictable and how severe it is can vary widely from one season to the next depending on many things, including:
    • what flu viruses are spreading,
    • how much flu vaccine is available,
    • when vaccine is available,
    • how many people get vaccinated, and
    • how well the flu vaccine is matched to flu viruses that are causing illness.
    Over a period of 31 seasons between 1976 and 2007, estimates of flu-associated deaths in the United States range from a low of about 3,000 to a high of about 49,000 people. During a regular flu season, about 90 percent of deaths occur in people 65 years and older."
  • Are there any new recommendations for the 2014-15 flu season?

    Starting in 2014-2015, CDC recommends use of the nasal spray vaccine (LAIV) for healthy* children 2 through 8 years of age, when it is immediately available and if the child has no contraindications or precautions to that vaccine. Recent studies suggest that the nasal spray flu vaccine may work better than the flu shot in younger children. However, if the nasal spray vaccine is not immediately available and the flu shot is, children 2 years through 8 years old should get the flu shot. Don’t delay vaccination to find the nasal spray flu vaccine.

    For more information about the new CDC recommendation, see the 2014-2015 MMWR Influenza Vaccine Recommendations.
  • How serious is the flu?

    Most people who get influenza will recover in a few days to less than two weeks, but some people will develop complications (such as pneumonia) as a result of the flu. Some of these complications can be life-threatening and result in death.
  • What are the symptoms of flu?

    A person with the flu may experience fever, chills, sore throat, dry cough, headache, fatigue, muscle aches. The symptoms can last two to seven days. Children can sometimes suffer from nausea and vomiting, but these symptoms are uncommon in adults. Some people, especially the elderly,  can also develop a secondary bacterial pneumonia.
  • How is the flu spread?

    Influenza is spread when someone with the flu coughs or sneezes. People can also become infected by touching something with influenza virus on it and then touching their mouth, nose, or eyes. Even someone who does not yet feel sick can pass the virus to others.
  • Can you spread the flu if you don't have any symptoms?

    Most healthy adults may be able to infect other people beginning 1 day before symptoms develop and up to 5 to 7 days after becoming sick. Children may pass the virus for longer than 7 days.

    Symptoms start 1 to 4 days after the virus enters the body. That means that you may be able to pass on the flu to someone else before you know you are sick, as well as while you are sick. Some people can be infected with the flu virus but have no symptoms. During this time, those persons may still spread the virus to others.
  • How soon will I get sick if I'm exposed to the flu?

    The time from when a person is exposed to flu virus to when symptoms begin is about 1 to 4 days, with an average of about 2 days.
  • How is the flu treated?

    Treatment is usually supportive and aimed at reducing the symptoms. There are antiviral drugs such as Relenza and Tamiflu that can limit the intensity and/or duration of the symptoms. However, these medications must be given within 36 to 48 hours of being exposed to the virus in order to be effective. If you develop a high fever associated with a dry cough, contact your doctor about prescribing this type of medication.
  • How do I know if I have the flu?

    You may have the flu if you have some or all of these symptoms:

    • fever
    • cough
    • sore throat
    • runny or stuffy nose
    • body aches
    • headache
    • chills
    • fatigue
    • sometimes diarrhea and vomiting
  • What is the difference between a cold and the flu?

    Because these two types of illnesses have similar symptoms, it can be difficult to tell the difference between them based on symptoms alone. In general, the flu is worse than the common cold, and symptoms such as fever, body aches, extreme tiredness, and dry cough are more common and intense. Colds are usually milder than the flu. People with colds are more likely to have a runny or stuffy nose. Colds generally do not result in serious health problems, such as pneumonia, bacterial infections or hospitalizations.

  • How can you tell the difference between a cold and the flu?

    Because colds and flu share many symptoms, it can be difficult to tell the difference between them based on symptoms alone. Special tests that usually must be done within the first few days of illness can be carried out, when needed to tell if a person has the flu.
  • How soon will I get sick if I am exposed to the flu?

    Flu symptoms usually begin one to four days after a person has been exposed to the flu virus.


  • Is the "stomach flu" really the flu?

    Many people use the term "stomach flu" to describe illnesses with nausea, vomiting or diarrhea. These symptoms can be caused by many different viruses, bacteria or even parasites. 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 should I do if I get sick?

    Most people with the flu have mild illness and do not need medical care or antiviral drugs. If you get sick with flu symptoms, in most cases, you should stay home and avoid contact with other people except to get medical care.

    If, however, you have symptoms of flu and are very sick or worried about your illness, contact your health care provider.

  • What should I do while I'm sick?

    Stay away from others as much as possible to keep from making them sick. If you must leave home, for example to get medical care, wear a facemask if you have one, or cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue. Wash your hands often to keep from spreading flu to others.
  • How long should I stay home if I am sick?

    It is recommended that you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone (Your fever should be gone without the use of a fever-reducing medicine, such as Tylenol®.) During this time, you should stay home from work and school and avoid social events and public gatherings.
  • What about herbal or homeopathic remedies for the flu?

    According to the CDC, there is no scientific evidence that any herbal, homeopathic or other folk remedies have any benefit against influenza.
  • What kills influenza virus?

    According to the CDC, influenza viruses can be destroyed by heat (167-212°F [75-100°C]). Several chemical germicides, including chlorine, hydrogen peroxide, detergents (soap), iodophors (iodine-based antiseptics) and alcohols, are also effective against influenza viruses if used in proper concentrations for a sufficient length of time. For example, alcohol-based hand rubs can be used in the absence of soap and water for hand washing.

  • Why should people get vaccinated against the flu?

    Influenza is a serious disease, and people of any age can get it.  Getting your annual flu vaccine  is the best way to reduce the chances that you will get the flu or spread it to others who may be particularly vulnerable, such as infants and the elderly.
  • Are there medicines you can take for the flu?

    Yes. There are drugs your doctor may prescribe for treating the flu called “antivirals.” These drugs can make you better faster and may also prevent serious complications.
  • What can I do to protect myself from the flu?

    The single best way to protect against the flu is to get a flu vaccine each year. The CDC recommends that everyone 6 months and older, especially people at high risk for developing serious complications from flu, get vaccinated each season.

  • What is a flu shot?

    A flu shot is a vaccine given with a needle, usually in the arm. The seasonal flu vaccine protects against the three or four influenza viruses that research indicates will be most common during the upcoming season.
  • When should I get the flu vaccine?

    You should get vaccinated as soon as the flu vaccine is available. However, getting vaccinated even later can be protective, as long as flu viruses are circulating. While seasonal influenza outbreaks can happen as early as October, most of the time influenza activity peaks in January or later. Since it takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop in the body that protect against influenza virus infection, it is best that people get vaccinated so they are protected before influenza begins spreading in their community.
  • Who should get vaccinated for the flu?

    Everyone 6 months and older should get a flu vaccine each year. It's especially important that certain people 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. This includes:

    • Pregnant women
    • 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 such as asthma, diabetes or chronic lung disease
    • 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.
  • What flu viruses will the flu vaccine protect against?

    Flu vaccines are designed to protect against the three influenza viruses that experts predict will be the most common during the upcoming season. This year's vaccine includes an influenza B virus, an influenza A (H1N1) virus and an influenza A (H3N2) virus (These are the three virus subtypes that are circulating most commonly among people today).
  • If f I got the flu or the flu vaccine last year, will I have immunity against the flu this year?

    Not necessarily. Several studies conducted over different flu seasons and involving different influenza viruses and types of flu vaccine have shown that a person’s protective antibody against influenza viruses declines over the course of a year after vaccination and infection, particularly in the elderly. So, a flu shot given during one season, or an infection acquired during one season, may not provide adequate protection through later seasons.

    For optimal protection against influenza, annual vaccination is recommended regardless of your past vaccination status or flu infection.

  • Can I get vaccinated and still get the flu?

    Yes. It’s possible to get sick with the flu even if you have been vaccinated (although you won’t know for sure unless you get a flu test). This is possible for the following reasons:

    • You may be exposed to a flu virus shortly before getting vaccinated or during the period that it takes the body to gain protection after getting vaccinated. This exposure may result in you becoming ill with flu before the vaccine begins to protect you. (About 2 weeks after vaccination, antibodies that provide protection develop in the body.)

    • You may be exposed to a flu virus that is not included in the seasonal flu vaccine. There are many different flu viruses that circulate every year. The flu vaccine is made to protect against the three or four flu viruses that research suggests will be most common.

    • Unfortunately, some people can become infected with a flu virus the flu vaccine is designed to protect against, despite getting vaccinated. Protection provided by flu vaccination can vary widely, based in part on health and age factors of the person getting vaccinated. In general, the flu vaccine works best among healthy younger adults and older children. Some older people and people with certain chronic illnesses may develop less immunity after vaccination. Flu vaccination is not a perfect tool, but it is the best way to protect against flu infection.
  • Does the flu vaccine work the same for everyone?

    No. According to the CDC: "While the flu vaccine is the single best way to prevent the flu, protection can vary widely depending on who is being vaccinated (in addition to how well matched the flu vaccine is with circulating viruses). In general, the flu vaccine works best among healthy adults and older children. Some older people and people with certain chronic illnesses might develop less immunity than healthy children and adults after vaccination. However, even for these people, the flu vaccine still may provide some protection."

  • Will this year's flu vaccine be a good match for the circulating strains?

    According to the CDC: "It's not possible to predict with certainty which flu viruses will predominate during a given season. Flu viruses are constantly changing (called drift) – they can change from one season to the next or they can even change within the course of one flu season. Experts must pick which viruses to include in the vaccine many months in advance in order for vaccine to be produced and delivered on time. Because of these factors, there is always the possibility of a less than optimal match between circulating viruses and the viruses in the vaccine."

  • Is flu vaccine effective against all types of flu and cold viruses?

    According to the CDC: "Seasonal flu vaccines are designed to protect against infection and illness caused by the flu viruses research indicates will be most common during the flu season. “Trivalent” flu vaccines are formulated to protect against three flu viruses, and “quadrivalent” flu vaccines protect against four flu viruses. Flu vaccines do NOT protect against infection and illness caused by other viruses that can also cause flu-like symptoms and are often spread during the flu season."
  • What if I have an egg allergy

    People who have ever had a severe allergic reaction to egg may be advised not to get vaccinated. People who have had a mild reaction to egg—that is, one which only involved hives—may receive a flu shot with additional precautions.  Most types of flu vaccine contain small amount of egg. But some new "cell-based" flu vaccines are made by growing viruses in animal cells rather than in hens’ eggs. Make sure your health care provider knows about any allergic reactions and ask them about the availability of a cell-based vaccine.

  • Who can get the nasal spray flu vaccine FluMist?

    The nasal-spray flu vaccine is approved for use only in healthy people 2 through 49 years of age who are not pregnant.
  • What is the intradermal flu vaccine?

    The intradermal flu vaccine is a shot that is injected into the skin instead of the muscle. The intradermal shot uses a much smaller needle than the regular flu shot, and it requires less antigen to be as effective as the regular flu shot. Antigen is the part of the vaccine that helps your body build up protection against flu viruses.
  • Who can get the intradermal flu vaccine?

    The intradermal vaccine is approved by FDA for use in adults 18 through 64 years of age and is another vaccination option for people in this age group. The regular flu shot continues to be an option for people 6 months and older, and the nasal spray vaccine is available for non-pregnant, healthy people ages 2 to 49.

  • What is Fluzone High-Dose vaccine?

    Fluzone High-Dose is a influenza vaccine, manufactured by Sanofi Pasteur Inc., designed specifically for people 65 years and older. It contains four times the amount of antigen (the part of the vaccine that prompts the body to make antibody) contained in regular flu shots which gives older people a better immune response and therefore better protectino against the flu.
  • When is flu season?

    Flu activity in the United States generally peaks between late February and early March. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) monitor circulating flu viruses and their related disease activity and provides influenza reports each week from October through May.
  • Where can I get a flu vaccine?

    Flu vaccines are offered by many doctor’s offices, urgent care clinics, health departments, pharmacies and college health centers, as well as by many employers.

    The Fort Wayne-Allen County Department of Health also offers flu vaccine for children and adults. You can make an appointment by calling 449-7504.

    You can also visit the HealthMap Vaccine Finder to locate where flu vaccines are available in your area.

  • Can I get the flu vaccine if I am sick?

    If you are sick with a fever when you go to get your flu shot, you should talk to your doctor or nurse about getting your shot at a later date. However, you can get a flu shot at the same time you have a respiratory illness without fever or if you have another mild illness.
  • What about people who get a flu shot and still get sick with flu-like symptoms?

    There are several reasons why someone might get flu-like symptoms even after they have been vaccinated against the flu.

    1. People may be exposed to an influenza virus shortly before getting vaccinated or during the two-week period that it takes the body to gain protection after getting vaccinated. This exposure may result in a person becoming ill with flu before the vaccine begins to protect them.
    2. People may become ill from other (non-flu) viruses that circulate during the flu season, which can also cause flu-like symptoms (such as rhinovirus).
    3. A person may be exposed to an influenza virus that is not included in the seasonal flu vaccine. There are many different influenza viruses that circulate every year. The flu shot protects against the 3 viruses that research suggests will be most common. Unfortunately, some people can remain unprotected from flu despite getting the vaccine. This is more likely to occur among people that have weakened immune systems. However, even among people with weakened immune systems, the flu vaccine can still help prevent influenza complications.
  • Are there any side effects?

    Yes, but usually very mild. The most common reaction to the vaccine is soreness, redness or swelling where the shot is given. Some people may also experience fever or muscle aches. If these problems occur, they begin soon after the shot and usually last one to two days.
  • Are there symptoms that should cause concern after getting a flu shot?

    Signs of a serious allergic reaction can include difficulty breathing, hoarseness or wheezing, swelling around the eyes or lips, hives, paleness, weakness, a fast heart beat or dizziness. In addition, after vaccination you should look for any unusual condition, such as a high fever or behavior changes. If any unusual condition occurs following vaccination, seek medical attention right away. Tell your doctor what happened, the date and time it happened, and when the vaccination was given. Ask your doctor, nurse, or health department to report a possible reaction by filing a Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) form. Or you can file this report yourself through the VAERS website. You may call 1-800-822-7967 to receive a copy of the VAERS form. VAERS does not provide medical advice.

  • Can the flu shot give me the flu?

    No, a flu shot cannot cause flu illness. The viruses contained in flu shots are inactivated (killed), which means they cannot cause infection. Flu vaccine manufacturers kill the viruses used in the flu shot during the process of making vaccine, and batches of flu vaccine are tested to make sure they are safe.
  • What are the risks from a flu shot?

    The viruses in the flu shot are killed (inactivated), so you cannot get the flu from a flu shot. The risk of a flu shot causing serious harm or death is extremely small. However, a vaccine, like any medicine, may cause problems, such as severe allergic reactions. Almost all people who get influenza vaccine have no serious problems from it.

  • Why do some people not feel well after getting a flu shot?

    The most common side effect of the flu vaccine in adults is soreness at the spot where the shot was given, which usually lasts less than two days. The soreness is often caused by a person’s immune system making protective antibodies to the killed viruses in the vaccine. These antibodies are what allow the body to fight against flu. The needle stick may also cause some soreness at the injection site.
  • What is Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS)?

    Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) is a rare disorder in which a person’s own immune system damages their nerve cells, causing muscle weakness and sometimes paralysis. GBS can cause symptoms that last for a few weeks. Most people recover fully from GBS, but some people have permanent nerve damage. In very rare cases, people have died of GBS, usually from difficulty breathing. In the United States, for example, an estimated 3,000 to 6,000 people develop GBS each year on average, whether or not they received a vaccination.
  • Is it true some flu vaccines contain mercury?

    Some inactivated influenza vaccine contains thimerosal, a preservative that contains mercury. Some people believe thimerosal may be related to developmental problems in children. In 2004 the Institute of Medicine published a report concluding that, based on scientific studies, there is no evidence of such a relationship. If you are concerned, ask your doctor about thimerosal-free influenza vaccine.
  • Does the nasal spray vaccine contain thimerosal?

    No, the nasal-spray flu vaccine LAIV (FluMist®) does not contain thimerosal or any other preservative.

 

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