Flu is a seasonal threat that can result in extended illness or hospitalization. Seasonal flu vaccination is the best way to protect adults and children from the flu.
Yearly flu shots are recommended by the CDC for everyone six months of age and older. Flu vaccination can reduce flu illnesses and prevent flu-related hospitalizations and death. It takes about two weeks after vaccination for protection against the flu to take effect.
Who we vaccinate
Before and during flu season, MSDH county clinics offer pediatric flu vaccinations for children up to age 18. Certain high-risk adults who lack health insurance coverage or who are underinsured can also receive their flu shots at county health departments.
Who should be vaccinated
Note: Nasal spray flu vaccine (live attenuated influenza vaccine, or LAIV) should not be used for the 2016-2017 flu season. The CDC recommends use of the conventional flu shot this season: either the inactivated influenza vaccine (IIV) or the recombinant influenza vaccine (RIV).
Remember to cover your cough, wash hands often and thoroughly, and stay home if you're sick to protect yourself and others.
More about handwashing for health »
MSDH accepts private insurance, CHIP, and Vaccines for Children (VFC) coverage.
Prevent the FluClean your hands
Clean hands prevent the spread of flu virus. Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly to stay healthy.
One of the most common ways to catch the flu is by touching the eyes or nose with contaminated hands. Handwashing prevents the spread of other communicable diseases as well: hepatitis A, meningitis, and infectious diarrhea among others.
- Wet your hands and apply liquid or clean bar soap.
- Rub your hands vigorously together and scrub thoroughly past your wrists.
- Continue for 10-15 seconds — about the time it takes to read these instructions. Soap combined with scrubbing acts to remove germs.
- Rinse well and dry your hands.
- More about handwashing
Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth
The flu virus easily enters the body when you touch a contaminated surface and transfer the virus to the eyes, nose, or mouth.
Stay home when you are sick
You are more likely to catch the flu if you are already sick with a cold or other illness. If possible, stay home from work, school, and errands when you are sick to keep yourself and others well.
If you are sick, continue to follow the handwashing guidelines above.Cover your mouth and nose
Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing to prevent the spread of any illness to others.
Wash your hands after using a tissue.
Avoid close contact
Flu spreads easily: avoid close contact with those who are ill. If you are sick, avoid contact with others to keep them well.
Protect Those at RiskChildren six months of age and older.
Children, especially those six months through four years old, are more vulnerable to flu and its complications. Vaccination for all children and adolescents through 18 years of age is recommended to help protect them.
The flu shot is not approved for use in children less than 6 months old.
Adults 50 and older.
People over the age of 50 are the largest group in the nation struck by serious or life-threatening cases of influenza. Flu also puts seniors at much greater risk for pneumonia. Pneumonia is a significant risk to the life and health of older adults, and hospitalizes more seniors each year than influenza.
If you are over 50, take steps to get your flu and pneumonia shots this season. The pneumonia vaccination won't prevent pneumonia, but it can greatly reduce the severity and deadliness of pneumonia.
Women who will be pregnant during the flu season.
Pregnancy can change the immune system in the mother, and affect the heart and lungs. This raises the risk of medical complications in pregnant women who get the flu, and makes hospitalization more likely. Early vaccination is especially important for expectant mothers who already have existing medical problems.
The chronically ill, regardless of age.
If you are an adult suffering from a chronic illness such as diabetes, or a condition like HIV that weakens your immune system, a flu shot is especially important.
Chronic illness greatly increases the risk of getting the flu, having it longer, and suffering from more serious medical problems as a result of it. People with diabetes are almost three times more likely to die from flu complications.
Early prevention is essential. Influenza spreads from November or earlier through April — getting your flu shot before then gives you the best chance of staying healthy.
Who should get a flu shot?
Everyone six months and older should get a flu shot. Flu shots are especially recommended for:
- Adults 50 years and older
- Children ages 6 months to four years, especially those under two years old
- Women who will be pregnant during the influenza season
- Residents of nursing homes or others in long-term care facilities
- Caregivers and household contacts of children less than six months old.
- Anyone with a compromised immune system due to HIV disease or medications such as chemotherapy
- Children and adults with chronic medical conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, or other health disorders
- Healthy adults and children who live with or care for children under 5 years old or adults over 50 years old; or care for anyone with a medical condition that could put them at higher risk for flu complications
- Healthcare workers involved in direct patient care
- Adolescents and children over 6 months of age who are receiving long-term aspirin therapy
- Out-of-home caregivers and household contacts of children aged less than 6 months, or adults over 50
- Healthy adults and children who live with or care for anyone with a medical condition that could put them at higher risk for flu complications
Who should NOT get a flu shot?A flu shot is not recommended if you:
- Have a severe allergy to eggs
- Have had a severe reaction to a flu shot in the past
- Have had Guillain-Barré syndrome in the 6 weeks following a previous flu shot
Is it safe?
The influenza vaccine cannot cause the flu. Flu vaccine is made from killed influenza virus that cannot give you the flu. Almost all people who receive an influenza vaccination have no serious problems from it.
How long does it take for a flu shot to start offering protection?
It takes about two weeks to build the maximum level of antibodies needed to protect you from the influenza virus.
Can the flu cause other health complications?
The flu can make people more likely to develop bacterial pneumonia, especially when chronic medical conditions are present such as congestive heart failure, asthma or diabetes. If you're in one of the groups at higher risk for pneumonia (people 50 and older, the very young, and people with special conditions such as heart or lung disease, diabetes, kidney failure, HIV and certain types of cancer), check with your doctor or health clinic about getting the PPV (pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine) when you get your regular flu shot. PPV will provide extra protection against pneumonia and other complications from the flu.
How can I tell a cold from the flu?
The flu's symptoms come on suddenly and can include a high fever and severe aches and pains. A cold, however, rarely causes a fever or severe aches and pains.
|Fever||Usually none||High fever (102 - 104° F); lasts 3 to 4 days|
|Headache||Usually none||Headaches can be strong|
|General aches, pains||Very little||Often severe aches and pains|
|Fatigue, weakness||Mild||Fatigue for up to 3 weeks|
|Extreme exhaustion||Never||Exhaustion begins early and remains|
|Stuffy nose||Nose usually stuffy||Sometimes|
|Sneezing||Sneezing is common||Sometimes|
|Sore throat||Throat is usually sore||Sometimes|
|Chest discomfort, cough||Sometimes||Chest discomfort and coughing can be severe|
|Complications||Sinus congestion or earache||Bronchitis, pneumonia; can be life-threatening|
|Prevention||None||Annual vaccination or antiviral medicines; see your doctor|
|Treatment||Only temporary relief of symptoms||Antiviral medicines: see your doctor|
What can I do if I get the flu?
If you develop the flu, it is advisable to get plenty of rest, drink a lot of liquids, and avoid using alcohol and tobacco. You can take medications to relieve the symptoms of flu (but never give aspirin to children or teenagers who have flu-like symptoms, particularly fever, without first speaking to your doctor.)
If your flu symptoms are unusually severe (for example, if you are having trouble breathing), you should consult your health-care provider right away.
If you are at special risk from complications of flu, you should consult your health-care provider when your flu symptoms begin. This includes people 65 years or older, people with chronic medical conditions, pregnant women, or children. Your doctor may choose to use certain antiviral drugs to treat the flu.
The same medications that can be used to prevent flu infections can also help decrease the length of a flu episode by about one day. Contact your physician at the early onset of flu symptoms to see if you are an appropriate candidate to receive this treatment. For those in generally good health, plenty of bed rest and fluids can be highly beneficial to a speedy recovery.
Influenza is a disease of the lungs only. Its main symptoms are fever, headache, extreme tiredness, coughing, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose and muscle aches, but usually not stomach nausea. "Stomach flu" is not related to influenza, and is not affected by the flu vaccine.
Not every runny nose is the flu. The flu has many symptoms that the common cold does. It's not likely that you have the flu unless the symptoms are more severe than the usual cold or runny nose.
This year's vaccine offers the best protection. The current year's vaccine is carefully matched to the currently active form of the influenza virus. The vaccine is effective for only a few months, so vaccinations from past years will not help protect you from illness this flu season.
You can be vaccinated against pneumococcal virus at the same time you get your flu vaccination. This extra shot can protect you for five years or more from serious respiratory diseases caused by varieties of pneumococcal virus. Check with your doctor to see if this vaccination is right for you.