What You Should Know About the Flu

Note: For the 2016-2017 season, CDC recommends use of the flu shot (inactivated influenza vaccine or IIV) and the recombinant influenza vaccine (RIV). The nasal spray flu vaccine (live attenuated influenza vaccine or LAIV) should not be used during 2016-2017.

The flu is not just a really bad cold. The flu is a contagious illness that affects the nose, throat, lungs and other parts of the body. It can spread quickly from one person to another. It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death.

The best way to prevent the flu is by getting a flu shot.

Every year in the U.S., on average:

  • 5% to 20% of the population gets the flu,
  • More than 200,000 people are hospitalized from flu complications, and;
  • The flu causes about 3,000 to 49,000 deaths each year. About 90% of these deaths occur in people 65 years or older.

Everyone 6 months or older should get a flu vaccine every year

The flu vaccine is not approved for children younger than 6 months old. But, infants in this age group have a higher risk of flu complications than children of any other age.

The best way to protect children younger than 6 months is to make sure members of their household and their caregivers are vaccinated.

People at high risk of flu complications

Some people, such as older people, young children, and people with certain health conditions, are at high risk for serious complications from the flu. This includes women who are pregnant. If you are pregnant, the flu is more dangerous for you. Those who live or work with people who are at high risk should get vaccinated against the flu.

You can't get the flu from getting the flu vaccine

The flu vaccine does not give you the flu. It stimulates your body to produce antibodies. These antibodies protect you from flu viruses.

Once you get the flu vaccine, it takes about two weeks for it to be fully effective. Until then, you are still at risk for getting the flu.

How the virus is spread

The flu usually spreads person to person when someone with the flu coughs or sneezes. Sometimes people get the flu because they touch an object or surface with flu virus on it -- and then touch their mouth or nose.

Information on the Flu Vaccine

Information on the Flu

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