Influenza (the flu) is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. There are two main types or strains of influenza virus; types A and B. Influenza A and B viruses are responsible for seasonal flu epidemics each year.
Anyone can get the flu, and flu disease can be serious. Flu affects people of all ages and can cause severe illness resulting in hospitalization and death. Protect yourself and your family by getting vaccinated as soon as possible —and by educating yourself about this season’s flu. If you don’t have your own healthcare provider, visit the Health Map Finder and type in your zip code- Health Map Finder to find the nearest location to get immunized and help stop the spread of Flu in Washington.
- Wash your hand with warm water and Soap often
- Cover your cough- try using a tissue or your inner elbow
- Stay home when your sick
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
The Seasonal Flu
The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses that infect the nose, throat, and lungs. It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death. Everyone 6 months of age and older should get the flu vaccine every year.
Seasonal flu refers to the flu viruses that circulate during the late fall and winter months each year, in the united States flu seasons often peaks in February and March. Flu vaccines are created each year to help protect people each season.
What are the symptoms of the flu?
The flu usually comes on suddenly and may include these symptoms:
- Fever (usually high; ≥101°F)
- Extreme tiredness
- Dry cough
- Muscle aches/body aches
- Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea can occur but are more common in children than adults.
Influenza causes mild to severe illness and can be fatal.
How does the flu spread?
The flu spreads easily from person to person by coughing and sneezing. Most healthy adults may be able to infect others beginning one day before symptoms develop and up to five days after becoming sick. Children and immune-compromised people may pass the virus for longer than ten days. That means that a person may be able to pass on the flu to someone else before they feel ill, as well as during their illness. Some people can be infected with flu virus but have no symptoms. During this time, they can still spread influenza to others when they sneeze or cough.
How serious is the flu?
The flu is unpredictable and can be severe, especially for older people, young kids, pregnant women and people with certain health conditions. These groups are at greater risk for serious complications if they get the flu, including:
- Bacterial pneumonia
- Ear infections
- Sinus infections
- Worsening of chronic medical conditions (asthma, congestive heart failure, or diabetes).
Protect yourself and others:
- Get a flu vaccine each year
- Cover your cough or sneeze
- Wash your hands frequently with soap and water
- Stay home and away from others while you or your family members are sick
- If your symptoms are severe, contact your doctor, especially if you are at high risk of developing flu-related complications. Antiviral treatment drugs are a treatment option but they must be prescribed by a doctor.
The single best way to prevent the flu is to get a flu vaccine each year. Within two weeks of vaccination, antibodies develop that protect against influenza virus infection.
For the 2018-19 season, only injectable flu vaccine is recommended. * Different flu shots are approved for different age groups starting at six months of age.
Trivalent flu vaccines protect against two strains of influenza A and one strain of influenza B. Quadrivalent vaccines protect against an additional strain of influenza B.
Trivalent vaccines include:
- The standard flu shot, given in the arm with a needle;
- A vaccine for persons aged 18 through 64 years given with a jet injector;
- Two high dose vaccines intended to create a stronger immune system response for persons 65 years and older and;
- A shot that is egg-free for persons 18 years and older, including pregnant women.
Quadrivalent vaccines include:
- The standard flu shot, given in the arm with a needle;
- An intradermal vaccine that uses a very small needle, available for those 18 through 64 years of age;
- A vaccine grown in cell culture, approved for persons 4 years of age and older and;
- A recombinant vaccine approved for persons 18 years of age and older.
For detailed information and product names, click here.
* The nasal-spray flu vaccine is not recommended by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) for the 2018-19 flu season due to concerns over poor vaccine effectiveness and should not be used. Persons with a history of egg allergy who have experienced only hives after exposure to egg can receive any licensed flu vaccine that is otherwise appropriate for the recipient’s age and health status. Persons who report having had reactions to egg involving symptoms other than hives, such as angioedema, respiratory distress, light headedness, or recurrent vomiting, may similarly receive any licensed flu vaccine that is otherwise appropriate for the recipient’s age and health status. Studies indicate severe allergic reactions in people with egg allergies are unlikely. People who have severe egg allergies should be vaccinated in a medical setting and be supervised by a health care provider who is able to recognize and manage severe allergic conditions.
Who should get vaccinated for influenza?
It is recommended that all people six months of age or older get a flu vaccine. Everyone, every year!
Because they are at high risk of serious flu-related complications or because they live with or care for high risk persons, it is especially important for the following people to get an annual flu vaccine:
- Children 6 months through 6 years of age.
- Pregnant women
- Adults 50 years of age and older
- People of any age with chronic medical conditions
- People who live in long-term care facilities
- People with certain medical conditions, such as asthma, heart disease, chronic lung disease, blood, kidney, liver or neurologic disorders, weakened immune systems, endocrine disorders (such as diabetes),
- People who are more than 100 lbs. overweight
- American Indians/Alaska Natives
- People who live with or care for those at high risk for complications from flu, including:
- Healthcare workers
- Household contacts and caregivers of persons at high risk for complications from the flu
- Caregivers and household contacts of children less than six months and persons over 50 years of age.
*Please contact your doctor for more questions.