According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, influenza, or flu, a highly contagious viral respiratory tract infection, affects an estimated 5 to 20 percent of people in the U.S. each year. Of those who get the flu, between 3,000 and 49,000 will die from it or from complications, with more than 90 percent of deaths occurring in people older than age 65. Influenza is characterized by the abrupt onset of fever, muscle aches, sore throat and a nonproductive cough. It can make people ill at any age. Although most people are ill with influenza for only a few days, some have a much more serious illness and may need to be hospitalized. Influenza can also lead to pneumonia and death.
"The flu vaccine is the best protection against the flu this season," reminds Kristi Wallace, spokesperson for INTEGRIS. "If you get the flu vaccine, you are 60 percent less likely to need treatment for the flu by a health care provider. Getting the vaccine has been shown to offer other substantial benefits including reduced illness, use of antibiotics, time lost from work, hospitalization and death."
It takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop in the body and provide protection against flu virus infection. In the meantime, an innoculated person is still at risk for getting the flu. That’s why it’s better to get vaccinated early in the fall, before the flu season really gets under way. A person cannot get the flu from the flu shot because it contains inactivated (killed) flu viruses that cannot cause illness.
Some people should talk to their doctor before deciding if they should get a flu shot, as they may not be a candidate for the vaccine. They include the following.
- People who are allergic to eggs
- People who have had a severe reaction in the past after getting a flu vaccination
- People who are sick with a fever (these people should get vaccinated after they have recovered)
- Babies who are 6-months-old or younger
- People who have a history of Guillain-Barré syndrome, a severe paralyzing illness, after getting a flu vaccination