Nearly every year “the flu” spreads to people of all ages, causing serious epidemics worldwide. An influenza-infected person is contagious from the day before symptoms start until about five days after they begin. That gives the disease six days to spread to anyone the infected person comes in contact with. Influenza can last for days – and sometimes weeks. The most common complaints are: fever, muscle aches, headache, cough, sore throat, fatigue and runny nose.

Do you need a vaccination?

Influenza immunization is important for people with certain types of medical conditions who are at risk for getting serious influenza-related complications, or for the people who live with an individual with these medical conditions. Therefore the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommends vaccination for the following people:

People 50 years of age and older

Any adult or child who has asthma, diabetes, or a chronic disease of the lungs, blood, kidneys, or immune system including HIV and AIDS

Women who will be in the second or third trimester of pregnancy during flu season

Adults or children who have needed regular medical follow-up or hospitalization during the preceding year

Residents of nursing homes and other chronic-care facilities that house people of any age who have chronic medical conditions.

Any child or teen receiving long-term aspirin therapy

Consider your job

As it spreads, the influenza virus affects the real world. People are forced to take days off from work to take care of others. For health care workers, however, the need for influenza vaccination goes beyond their own need to stay healthy. Health care workers need to avoid infection because they could spread the disease to high-risk people in their care. ACIP recommends the following professionals get vaccinated: physicians, nurses, allied health professionals, emergency response workers, nursing home employees, employees of chronic-care facilities, assisted-living employees and home care employees.

Just the Facts

Influenza vaccination required one dose each year

Annual vaccination is necessary, because every year there are new strains of influenza. The vaccines are designed to protect against the kinds of influenza likely to cause an epidemic this year

Inactivated influenza vaccine contains non-infectious killed viruses and cannot cause influenza

A common complaint after getting vaccinated is soreness at the injection site. This is not a serious problem, and usually lasts one or two days

Anyone allergic to eggs, egg products, or thimerosol should not be given influenza vaccine

As with any vaccine, influenza vaccines do not provide 100 percent protection to all susceptible individuals

If you or someone you know is among those at high risk for influenza or its complications, the ideal time for the vaccine is October. For those not at risk, vaccination can be delayed until November and beyond. However, no matter what your risk level, consider getting vaccinated – it could increase the chances of a flu-free winter for you! University Health Services is now offering influenza vaccination for students, staff and faculty – call for an appointment!

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