Flu Facts 101

When it comes to the flu, the best defense is a good offense. Proper cleaning and hand-washing, getting vaccinated and avoiding contact with infected persons are all proactive steps you can take to sidestep the flu this year.

The best defense is a good offense

Flu affects millions of people each year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that hundreds of thousands of people are hospitalized from flu complications while tens of thousands of people die as a result of flu annually.

Valleywise Health Chief Medical Officer Dr. Michael White

“When it comes to flu, prevention truly is the best medicine,” said Michael White, MD, a Executive Vice President and Chief Medical Officer at Valleywise Health. “Whether it’s a shot or nasal spray, the flu vaccine is the best way to protect yourself against infection. Unfortunately, misinformation keeps many people from getting vaccinated.”

Dr. Michael White, Chief Medical Officer at Valleywise Health

Below are some facts about flu and helpful tips to keep you and those around you from catching it.

Q: What is flu (influenza)?

A: The influenza virus, commonly known as flu, is a complex and somewhat tricky viral infection of the lungs, throat and/or sinuses that causes various symptoms. These can include cough, sneezing, runny nose, sore throat, muscle and body aches, and fever.

Q: Why does the flu strain change every year?

A: Changes in flu strains are tied to molecular biology and the mutation that occurs when various types of flu virus (i.e., human, bird, pig, etc.) mix. New vaccines are created each year to target the specific strains that are expected to be most prevalent.

Q: Will getting vaccinated cause flu?

A: One of the biggest misconceptions about flu vaccination is that it will cause flu. This is not true. The injectable vaccine (flu shot) is an inactive form of the virus that is unable to cause illness. While the nasal mist vaccine (nasal spray) is a live virus, it is a weakened version of the virus that is not strong enough to cause infection. The intentional exposure to the inactive or weakened version of the virus through vaccination gives the body a chance to build up a response for when it later encounters the virus out in the world.

Q: Who should get vaccinated?

A: With very rare exception, the CDC recommends the flu vaccine for everyone six months and up. The nasal mist vaccine (spray) is only recommended for healthy individuals between the ages of 2 and 49 who have no underlying respiratory or health complications. Pregnant women should not get the nasal mist vaccine.

Q: When is the ideal time to get the flu vaccine?

A: The best time to get your flu vaccine is between September and November. However, getting vaccinated later still provides protection. This is especially true as flu becomes more widespread in February and March.

Q: How can I avoid getting the flu?

A: Vaccination is the most effective way to prevent flu. Other tips to stay healthy and avoid spreading the virus include washing your hands regularly with warm soapy water, coughing and sneezing into your arm instead of your hands, and staying home when sick.

Q: What should I do if I get the flu?

A: Most people recover from flu without needing medical attention. If you get the flu, stay home from school, daycare and/or work to avoid spreading the virus. Be sure to get plenty of rest and increase your fluid intake. Also, wash your hands frequently.

Q: Do I need to see a doctor if I get the flu?

A: Young children, adults 65 and older, and pregnant women have the highest risk of serious flu complications. As a result, they should see a doctor early to help manage the illness. Similarly, anyone whose symptoms are severe or do not improve within a few days should be seen by a health care provider.

Q: Where can I get a flu shot?

A: Valleywise Health makes getting your flu shot quick and easy with Curbside Care. Simply drive up to your nearest Valleywise Community Health Center and get free flu shots for you and your family, right in your car. Click here for details.

If you miss the Curbside Care promotion, don’t worry. You can get flu shots at any Valleywise Health location. Call 1-833-VLLYWSE (855-9973) to find a location near you.

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