Get the facts about the Flu and Flu Vaccine

Today’s guest blog is by Michael Jhung, MD, MPH, MS, a medical officer for the Surveillance and Outbreak Response Team in the Influenza Division, National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 
 
I bet you’ve heard a statement or two about seasonal flu and the flu vaccine and wondered if it was true or not. To help you make sense of those statements, I’d like to explain some of the important facts about seasonal flu and flu vaccination.
 
Flu vaccines cannot give you the flu. The flu vaccine contains viruses that are either killed or weakened, which means they cannot cause infection. There are even some flu vaccines that contain no flu viruses at all. Sometimes, though, people mistake the mild side effects from vaccination for actual flu illness and, at other times, people can still get the flu even after they’ve had the flu vaccine. Common flu shot side effects are a sore arm and, sometimes, a low fever or achiness. The nasal spray flu vaccine might cause congestion, runny nose, sore throat or a cough. Side effects are often mild and last one to two days.



CDC/James Gathany
Flu can be a very serious disease.
Some people are at a higher risk of complications from flu that can result in hospitalization and sometimes death. This includes young children, pregnant women, older adults and people with certain chronic health conditions, asthma, diabetes or heart disease. Keep in mind though that even healthy children and adults can get sick with flu and spread it to others. Getting vaccinated is the best protection against influenza, even if you’ve already had the flu this fall or winter.
 
You need to get a flu vaccine every year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says annual vaccination for everyone 6 months and older is necessary because flu viruses are constantly changing, and flu vaccines may be updated from one season to the next to protect against the viruses research indicates will be most common during the upcoming flu season. Additionally, a person’s immune protection from the vaccine declines over time. It’s important to remember that some children 6 months through 8 years will need two flu vaccines spaced at least 28 days apart during their first year of vaccination.
 
As long as the flu is circulating, flu vaccination should continue. A flu vaccination protects you and those around you. Seasonal flu usually peaks in January or February, but can occur as late as May. If you haven’t gotten your flu vaccine yet, find a vaccine provider near you at http://vaccine.healthmap.org/.
 
Join @CDCFlu and @GetReady on social media to share the news of your vaccination by posting a message using #vaxwithme. In doing so, you will help remind and encourage others to get vaccinated – it’s the best protection.

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