Influenza (Flu) Fact Sheet
What Everyone Should Know About Flu and the Flu Vaccine
What is the flu?
- ~ 5% to 20% of the population gets the flu;
- on average more than 200,000 people are hospitalized from flu complications, and;
- over 23,600 people die from flu (with a range of 3,349-48,614 people); about 90% of such deaths occur in persons aged 65 years and older.
What are the symptoms of the flu?
- Fever* or feeling feverish/chills
- Sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Muscle or body aches
- Fatigue (tiredness)
- Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults
Are some people at higher risk for complications than others from getting the flu?
What are the complications associated with the flu?
How is the flu spread?
When and for how long is a person able to spread the flu?
Cold Versus Flu
What is the difference between a cold and the flu?
What are the symptoms of the flu versus the symptoms of a cold?
Preventing the Flu
What can I do to protect myself against the flu?
- The "flu shot" is an inactivated vaccine (containing killed virus) that is given with a needle. It can be given in the muscle or just under the skin. The flu shot that is given in the muscle is approved for use in people older than 6 months, including healthy people and people with chronic medical conditions. The flu shot that is given below the skin is for those 18-64 years of age.
- The nasal-spray flu vaccine is a vaccine (sometimes called LAIV for "Live Attenuated Influenza Vaccine") made with live, weakened flu viruses that do not cause the flu. LAIV is approved for use in healthy people 2 years to 49 years of age who are not pregnant.
Who should get the flu vaccine?
- Children younger than 5, but especially children younger than 2 years old
- Adults 65 years of age and older
- Pregnant women
- Also, American Indians and Alaskan Natives seem to be at higher risk of flu complications
- Neurological and neurodevelopmental conditions [including disorders of the brain, spinal cord, peripheral nerve, and muscle such as cerebral palsy, epilepsy (seizure disorders), stroke, intellectual disability (mental retardation), moderate to severe developmental delay, muscular dystrophy, or spinal cord injury].
- Chronic lung disease (such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease [COPD] and cystic fibrosis)
- Heart disease (such as congenital heart disease, congestive heart failure and coronary artery disease)
- Blood disorders (such as sickle cell disease)
- Endocrine disorders (such as diabetes mellitus)
- Kidney disorders
- Liver disorders
- Metabolic disorders (such as inherited metabolic disorders and mitochondrial disorders)
- Weakened immune system due to disease or medication (such as people with HIV or AIDS, or cancer, or those on chronic steroids)
- People younger than 19 years of age who are receiving long-term aspirin therapy
- People who are morbidly obese (Body Mass Index, or BMI, of 40 or greater)
Who should NOT be vaccinated?
- People who have had a severe reaction to an influenza vaccination in the past;
- People who developed Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) within six weeks of getting an influenza vaccine previously;
- Children less than 6 months of age.
- People who have a severe allergy to chicken eggs;
- People who are sick with a fever. (These people can get vaccinated once their symptoms lessen. People with a mild illness can usually get the vaccine.)