Influenza (also known as the flu) activity continues to increase in the United States and most of the country is now experiencing high levels of influenza-like-illness, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) latest FluView report. Our below overview includes steps that you can take to decrease your chances of getting sick with the flu this year.
What is the flu?
The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses that infect the nose, throat and lungs. It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death. Symptoms of the flu can include a fever, cough, headache, sore throat, runny nose and/or fatigue.
What can you do to prevent the flu?
The best way to prevent the flu is by getting a flu vaccine each year if you are over 6 months old. The two methods to vaccinate against the flu are through a “flu shot” or through a nasal-spray flu vaccine. If you want to make sure a vaccination is right for you, contact your doctor and review CDC’s fact sheet here.
Additional steps to fight the flu:
- Wash your hands often throughout the day with soap and water. If soap and water aren’t available, use an alcohol based hand rub.
- Always cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.
- Avoid close contact with sick people and limit contact with others when you are sick.
- Contact your doctor as early as possible if you start to experience flu-like symptoms.
When should you get the flu shot?
It’s recommended that you get vaccinated against influenza as soon as the flu season vaccine becomes available in your community. If you need help finding a vaccine location, this vaccine locator is a useful tool.
How long does it take for the flu shot to work?
The flu shot takes approximately two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop in the body and provide protection against influenza virus infection. In the meantime, you are still at risk for getting the flu.
Influenza vaccine effectiveness can vary from year to year and among different age and risk groups. For more information about vaccine effectiveness, visit How Well Does the Seasonal Flu Vaccine Work?