Flu shots are essential for staying healthy this winter | PostIndependent.com

Flu shots are essential for staying healthy this winter

Mountain Family Health Centers Chief Medical Team: Dr. Anneliese Heckert, DO; Jenny Lang, FNP; Dr. Matt Percy, MD

Prevention is key to staying healthy this winter. Flu shots are important way to prevent getting sick — and help your family and friends, too. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), everyone aged 6 months and older should get a flu vaccine every season, with rare exceptions. Vaccination is particularly important for people who are at high risk of serious complications from influenza. Mountain Family Health Centers is now offering flu shots for all ages at all of our clinics.

What’s your Flu I.Q.? Take this brief quiz to find out if you’re ready for flu season.


1. A flu vaccine can’t give you the flu. True or False?

Answer: True. The flu vaccine cannot cause flu illness. The viruses in the vaccine are inactivated (i.e., killed), which means they cannot cause infection.

2. The ‘stomach flu’ and influenza are the same thing. True or False?

Answer: False. Stomach flu is a popular term for stomach or intestinal disease, whereas the flu is a respiratory (lung) disease. People who have the flu often feel some or all of these symptoms: fever, headache, extreme tiredness, dry cough, sore throat and muscle aches. Nausea, vomiting and diarrhea also can occur with flu, but are more common in children than adults.

3. Getting a flu vaccine in December or later is not too late. True or False?

Answer: True. The CDC recommends that people get a flu vaccination by the end of October, if possible. The CDC continues to recommend flu vaccination as long as flu viruses are circulating, even in January or later. Most of the time flu activity peaks between December and March, although activity can last as late as May. Get your vaccine before Halloween!

4. People should be vaccinated against the flu every year. True or False?

Answer: True. The CDC recommends yearly vaccination for two reasons. First, new flu vaccines are made each year and often updated to fight against the three or four (depending on vaccine) influenza viruses research suggests will be most common. Second, immunity declines over time, so a yearly vaccination is required for optimal protection.

5. Washing your hands is the best thing you can do to protect yourself against the flu. True or False?

Answer: False. The CDC recommends a flu vaccine as the first and most important step in protecting against the flu. However, preventive actions like covering your cough and washing your hands often are important everyday steps that can help stop the spread of germs.

6. The flu is typically spread through coughing/sneezing. True or False?

Answer: True. Flu virus is mainly spread through droplets from coughs and sneezes.

7. The flu is not a serious illness. True or False?

Answer: The flu is a serious contagious disease that causes illness and related hospitalizations and deaths every year in the United States. Flu seasons can vary in severity. The CDC estimates that flu-related hospitalizations since 2010 ranged from 140,000 to 710,000, while flu-related deaths are estimated to have ranged from 12,000 to 56,000.

8. The flu vaccine is available as a shot or a nasal spray. True or False?

Answer: True. Nasal spray flu vaccine (sold under the trade name FluMist®) was first approved by FDA in 2003 and is still an FDA-approved product. Although Mountain Family Health Centers does not carry the flu mist, talk to your provider about whether you are an appropriate candidate to get this from your pharmacy.

9. You can spread the flu to others before you have symptoms. True or False?

Answer: True. Most healthy adults may be able to infect others starting 1 day before symptoms develop, and up to 5 days after becoming sick.

10. There is no treatment for flu. True or False?

Answer: False. There are prescription medications called “antiviral drugs” that can be used to treat the flu. Antiviral drugs are pills, liquid or inhaled powder that fight against the flu in your body. The antiviral drugs recommended now are oseltamivir (Tamiflu®), zanamivir (Relenza®), and peramivir (Rapivab®). Antivirals are not a substitute for getting a flu vaccine.

11. Flu vaccines offer protection immediately. True or False?

Answer: False. It takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop in the body that provide protection against influenza (flu) virus infection. That is why it’s better to get vaccinated before the flu season really gets under way. The CDC recommends people get vaccinated by the end of October, if possible.

To take the Flu I.Q. Quiz online, go to https://www.cdc.gov/flu/freeresources/widgets/fluIQ/.

Adapted for Mountain Family Health Centers from information from https://www.cdc.gov/flu/freeresources/widgets/fluIQ/.

Dr. Anneliese Heckert, DO; Jenny Lang, FNP; Dr. Matt Percy, MD, comprise Mountain Family Health Centers Chief Medical Team.

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