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Influenza: Awareness & Prevention

Influenza (flu) is a contagious disease caused by various strains of flu viruses that attack the respiratory tract. It can lead to serious complications, hospitalization, or even death. The symptoms can include: fever, headache, fatigue, dry cough, sore throat and/or body aches. Anyone can get the flu, so receiving an immunization (injection) against the flu is the best way to protect you and your family. Even healthy people can get very sick from the flu and spread it to loved ones and friends.

An injection of the flu vaccine will not give you the flu, because the vaccines are made from inactivated or partial viruses. Side effects of flu vaccines are generally mild in adults and don’t occur often. Reactions may include tenderness at the injection site, fever, chills, headaches or muscular aches. Symptoms may last up to 48 hours and if they do occur, may do so 6-12 hours after the injection.

There are many different flu viruses; the yearly flu vaccine protects against the 3 viruses that research suggests will be most common during the upcoming flu season. Everyone* 6 months of age and older should receive flu vaccine each season. It's very important that the following groups receive immunizations because they either are/live with/care for people at high risk for developing flu-related complications:

  • Pregnant women
  • Children younger than 5, but especially children younger than 2 years old
  • People 50 years of age and older
  • People of any age with certain chronic medical conditions
  • People who live in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities
  • People who live with/care for those at high risk for complications from flu:
    • Health care workers
    • Household contacts of persons at high risk for complications from the flu
    • Household contacts and out of home caregivers of children less than 6 months of age (too young to be vaccinated)

Pregnancy can increase the risk of complications from the flu, so pregnant women are more likely to be hospitalized from complications of the flu than non-pregnant women of the same age. This is due to the changes in the mother’s immune system that may affect her heart and lungs and therefore may place a pregnant woman at higher risk. Pregnant women can potentially provide protection to infants who cannot be vaccinated.

*Contraindications: Persons who are allergic to eggs, chickens, chicken dander, chicken feathers. Persons who have had a severe reaction to a flu immunization in the past. Persons with fever. Persons who have received other types of vaccines within the last 14 days.

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