Myth #: The Flu Isn’t Serious
“The flu is certainly a very serious disease,” Cunningham said.
Every year, between 15 million and 60 million cases of the flu are reported in the U.S., Cunningham said. More than 200,000 people with the flu are admitted to hospitals yearly. And between 3,000 and 50,000 people in the U.S. die of the flu yearly. During the 2019-2020 flu season, early estimates by the CDC suggest 38 million Americans were infected with the flu and 22,000 people died from it.
One reason people may not perceive the flu as being serious is that cases of the “stomach flu” are mistaken for influenza virus infections. “True influenza is an infection of the lungs and respiratory tract,” Cunningham said. Infected people may develop a high fever, body aches and nasal congestion, he said.
People with the stomach flu which is commonly caused by a virus called norovirus have diarrhea, cramping and other gastrointestinal symptoms. Influenza does not cause such symptoms.
This article is for informational purposes only, and is not meant to offer medical advice.
Originally published on Live Science.
Rachael has been with Live Science since 2010. She has a master’s degree in journalism from New York University’s Science, Health and Environmental Reporting Program. She also holds a B.S. in molecular biology and an M.S. in biology from the University of California, San Diego. Her work has appeared in Scienceline, The Washington Post and Scientific American.
When Is The Best Time To Get The Flu Shot
The flu shot is available a lot sooner than you might think. Sometimes, you can get the vaccine starting at the very end of August, but more often it drops in pharmacies and doctors offices in mid-September or early October.
And that happens to be perfect timing, as October is ideal, according to Dr. Adalja. This timing decreases the risk of the vaccination wearing off before flu season really peaks. But he also said that if the only time you can get is before October, that’s okay too. It’s better to get the vaccination early than to not get it at all.
While it may seem alarmist to get your flu shot ASAP, it really can save you from a dreadful few weeks or even a serious illness that sends you to the hospital. Ive seen far too many disasters in people who think they can time , Dr. Poland says. “People either forget about getting the vaccine or procrastinate it. Then they start seeing their neighbors and coworkers get sick and decide it’s time. But at that point, it could already be too late.”
Majority Of Americans Dont Get Flu Vaccine But No Significant Dips Seen In States With Covid
Amid the race for the first COVID-19 vaccine in the U.S., ValuePenguin analyzed Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data to try to understand where people are most and least likely to get inoculated.
One in five respondents in two southern regions told ValuePenguin in July that they wouldnt accept a COVID-19 vaccine once one is released. But in many of those states, the rate at which people get the influenza vaccine is higher than the national average.
From 2010-11 to 2018-19, only 45% of Americans on average were vaccinated against the seasonal flu, well below the federal governments target threshold of 70%.
- While the CDC recommends that people 6 months and older should get inoculated against the seasonal flu, many won’t. From the 2010-11 flu season to the 2018-19 flu season, about 55% of people on average didnt get the flu vaccine.
- Though 14% previously told ValuePenguin that they wont get vaccinated against COVID-19, places where many have doubts about vaccines have consistently average flu vaccination rates.
- In the states where COVID-19 has had the highest average rates of transmission, the vaccination rate for the flu was slightly less than the national average in the 2018-19 season.
- In most states, schoolchildren are required to get certain vaccines, including measles, mumps and rubella . But since the 2014-15 school year, the percentage of exemptions has increased from 1.8% to 2.6%.
Does Flu Vaccine Effectiveness Vary By Type Or Subtype
Yes. The amount of protection provided by a flu vaccine may vary by flu virus type or subtype or by vaccine, even when viruses used to make flu vaccines are similar to the influenza viruses that are causing illness that season. Since 2009, VE studies looking at how well flu vaccines protect against medically attended illness have suggested better protection against influenza B or influenza A viruses than against influenza A viruses. A study pdf iconexternal icon that looked at a number of VE estimates from 2004-2015 found average VE of 33% against illnesses caused by H3N2 viruses, compared with 61% against H1N1 and 54% against influenza B virus illnesses. VE estimates were lower when viruses used to make vaccines were different from the flu viruses causing illness that season, especially against A viruses. The same study found average VE of 23% against A viruses when circulating influenza viruses were not well-matched to the A viruses used to make that seasons flu vaccines.
Who Should And Should Not Get Flu Shot
The CDC recommends shots for almost everyone over the age of six months. The shot can be particularly important for those with infants in the house who cannot be vaccinated.
People who have an allergy to eggs or who have had a severe reaction to another ingredient in the flu vaccine in the past should talk to their health care provider about whether its safe for them to get vaccinated, the CDC says.
How Do Flu Vaccines Work
Flu vaccines cause antibodies to develop in the body about two weeks after vaccination. These antibodies provide protection against infection with circulating influenza viruses.
Seasonal flu vaccines are designed to protect against the influenza viruses that research indicates will be most common during the upcoming season. All flu vaccines in the United States are quadrivalent vaccines, which means they protect against four different flu viruses an influenza A virus, an influenza A virus, and two influenza B viruses.
Summary Of Those Who Are Recommended To Have The Flu Vaccine
- everyone aged 65 and over
- everyone under 65 years of age who has a medical condition listed above, including children andbabies over 6 months of age
- all pregnant women, at any stage of pregnancy
- all 2 and 3 year old children
- all children in primary school
- all Year 7 to Year 11 secondary school-aged children
- everyone living in a residential or nursing home
- everyone who cares for an older or disabled person
- all frontline health and social care workers
Those aged 50 to 64 years old will also be offered flu vaccination this year.
For advice and information about the flu vaccination, speak to your GP, practice nurse, pharmacist or school immunisation team.
It is best to have the flu vaccination in the autumn or early winter before any outbreaks of flu. Remember that youneed it every year, so dont assume you are protected because you had one last year.
Check NHS.UK to find out if you are eligible.
Whos Most At Risk Of Getting The Flu
Typically, children and older people are most at risk of getting sick with influenza. The best way to protect babies who are too young to be vaccinated is to make sure people around them are vaccinated. Occasionally, a flu virus will circulate that disproportionately affects young and middle-age adults.
You also can reduce the spread of the flu and its effects by taking such practical measures as washing your hands, covering coughs and sneezes, and staying home when youre sick.
The FDA has approved numerous vaccines for the prevention of influenza. But if you do get the flu, there are FDA-approved antiviral drugs, available by prescription, to treat your illness. There are several FDA-approved antiviral drugs recommended by the CDC for use against circulating influenza viruses. These drugs work best if started soon after the onset of symptoms .
Flu Isnt Just A Heavy Cold
Flu occurs every year, usually in the winter, which is why its sometimes called seasonal flu. Its a highly infectious disease with symptoms that come on very quickly.
Colds are much less serious and usually start gradually with a stuffy or runny nose and a sore throat. A bad bout of flu can be much worse than a heavy cold.
The most common symptoms of flu are fever, chills, headache, aches and pains in the joints and muscles, and extreme tiredness. Healthy individuals usually recover within 2 to 7 days but, for some, the disease can lead to hospitalisation, permanent disability or even death.
Is It True That Getting Vaccinated Repeatedly Can Reduce Vaccine Effectiveness
A report examining studies from the 2010-2011 to the 2014-2015 seasons concluded that the effectiveness of a flu vaccine may be influenced by vaccination the prior season or during many prior seasons . In some seasons, protection against influenza A virus illness may have been lower for people vaccinated in the current season and the prior season compared with those who had only been vaccinated in the current season. This fits with findings on immune response to vaccination that suggest repeated influenza vaccination can weaken the immune response to vaccination and especially to the H3N2 vaccine component. However, repeated annual vaccination also can be beneficial during some seasons, since sometimes people retain and carry over immune protection from one season to the next. During some seasons, people who missed getting vaccinated still had residual protection against influenza illness.
Schoolchildren Vaccine Exemptions Have Increased Since 2014
Since the 2014-15 school year, the percentage of exemptions among kindergarteners has increased each year. The CDC reported that 1.8% of the estimated population of 3.7 million kindergarteners were exempted in 2014 for medical and nonmedical reasons. This number rose to 2.6% of 4 million in 2018.
In the majority of states, schoolchildren are required to get vaccinated against a score of diseases, such as:
- Diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis
- Measles, mumps and rubella
A complete vaccination record is a precondition for attending public school or day care in many states. However, compliance isn’t universal.
In more than half of all states, children can attend school with a grace period, often set at 30 days. For example, the CDC estimated that in the 2017-18 school year, about 2% of kids entered school under a grace period. School staff and nurses are tasked with following up with parents or guardians of unvaccinated children to ensure compliance with the requirements. In other cases, there are a number of exemptions that parents can invoke to avoid getting their children vaccinated.
Children with preexisting conditions that don’t allow them to get a vaccine safely may be eligible for medical exemptions. Parents may also gain nonmedical exemptions. Forty-five states and the District of Columbia allow for religious exemptions from vaccines, while 15 allow parents to claim philosophical exemptions from vaccines in public schools.
The Importance Of Getting Both Vaccines
Andrew Pavia, MD, chief of the division of pediatric infectious diseases at the University of Utah Health and a spokesperson at the Infectious Diseases Society of America, tells Verywell that with flu season on its way and about 90 million Americans still unvaccinated against COVID-19, the new guidance is important because it can increase the chance that someone coming in for one of the vaccines who also needs the other, will get it.”
Infectious disease experts like Pavia worry that the few flu cases that were reported last yearlikely because of masking, social distancing, and changes in reportingmight lead people to believe that they do not need flu shots for the 2021-2022 season. That’s far from the case, however.
We just dont know what the flu season will be like this year,” says Pavia. “And you could be risking severe illness or death, especially if you get COVID-19 at the same time, so we really need people to get both vaccines.
When To Get The Flu Shot
Flu season typically runs from late fall to early spring.
You should get a flu shot as soon as it becomes available to your group because it takes two weeks to take effect.
Flu shots are available:
- Now for residents in long-term care homes and hospitals
- Starting early October for seniors and individuals at higher risk of flu-related complications, or who are more likely to require hospitalization , through retirement homes, health care providers and participating pharmacies
- Early November for the rest of the public
Talk to your doctor or pharmacy to learn more.
How To Stay Safe From Both The Flu And Covid
First, get your flu shot. It’s the easiest way to reduce your chances of contracting the virus. As White House chief medical advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci told NBC News on Sept. 9: “We don’t want to have a bad flu season complicating what we’re seeing already with Covid-19.”
At this point in the pandemic, many hospitals around the country are overwhelmed by Covid cases. Your flu shot could help you avoid hospitalization for non-Covid reasons, an easy way to help relieve some of that strain.
If you have health insurance, you can get a free flu shot at most pharmacies, as well as many health clinics, colleges and workplaces. If you don’t have insurance, you can expect to pay around $40 for the shot, or as much as $74 if you require an egg-free version of the vaccine due to an allergy.
Second, after getting your flu shot, be strict about wearing a mask in public places and maintaining good hand hygiene, especially after coughing and sneezing. If you’re sick, stay home and avoid close contact with other people to prevent the spread.
Like Covid, the flu spreads primarily through respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks. In rare cases, the virus can spread on surfaces. Many people are more lax now about wearing masks and social distancing compared with last year, which could lead to an earlier and more dangerous flu season.
If I Have Been Vaccinated For Covid Do I Still Need The Flu Vaccine
Yes, one does not protect against the other. Vaccines are intended to target specific viruses: Just as the Covid-19 vaccines are manufactured for the coronavirus, flu vaccines target influenza viruses.
That means flu shots this year will be doled out as some people are getting initial and booster shots for the coronavirus.
There is vaccine fatigue out there, Dr. Schaffner said. But we are going to have to tell people, Oh no, you need a different one, right at the time we are boosting.
Can I Get The Flu Once Ive Gotten The Vaccine
Even if you do get the vaccine, it isn’t 100 percent effective, and theres no guarantee itll keep you from getting the flu. Thats because the virus is extraordinarily promiscuous, according to Dr. Poland. Its constantly mutating and changing, meaning that the vaccine you get could be protecting you from four different strains of the flu but if you run across a fifth strain, you could still get sick.
For example, In 2000, we had exactly the right combination of flu strains in the vaccine, Dr. Poland says. “Then, out of nowhere, in November, there was a new strain, and people had no protection.
Still, some protection is better than none at all. With so many different types of influenza virus out there, its best to be protected against as many as possible.
Will This Be A Mild Flu Season
Hard to tell. Last year was a historically mild season, which many experts ascribe to the fact that people were wearing masks and social distancing, fewer people were traveling, and many schools were closed.
Because of the mild season last year, CDC officials said last week that it is particularly important this year to get vaccinated as fewer people may enjoy immunity against the virus. So the question of whether or not this is a mild season will depend at least in some part on everyone of us.
How Does Cdc Measure How Well Flu Vaccines Work
CDC typically presents vaccine effectiveness as a single point estimate: for example, 60%. This point estimate represents the reduction in risk provided by a flu vaccine. CDC vaccine effectiveness studies measure different outcomes. For example, outcomes measured can include laboratory-confirmed flu illness , hospitalizations or intensive care unit admissions. For these outcomes, a VE point estimate of 60% means that on average the flu vaccine reduces a persons risk of that flu outcome by 60%.
In addition to the VE point estimate, CDC also provides a confidence interval for this point estimate, for example, 60% . The confidence interval provides a lower boundary for the VE estimate as well as an upper boundary . One way to interpret a 95% confidence interval is that if CDC were to repeat this study 100 times , 95 times out of 100, the confidence interval would contain the true VE value. Another way to look at this is that there is a 95% chance that the true VE lies within the range described by the confidence interval. This means there is still the possibility that five times out of 100 the true VE value could fall outside of the 95% confidence interval.