The national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone 6 months and older get a flu vaccine each year. Annual flu vaccination should begin in September or as soon as vaccine is available and continue throughout the influenza season, into January and beyond. This is because the timing and duration of influenza seasons vary. While influenza outbreaks can happen as early as October, flu activity usually peaks in January or February and can last until May.
Where can I get a vaccination?
Free flu vaccinations are now available at all three Knox County Health Department locations. Please call 865-215-5070 to make an appointment. See the sidebar on the right for directions.
Flu vaccinations are also widely available in the community (at pharmacies, medical providers, etc.).
Why should I get a flu vaccination?
Annual vaccination is the first and most important step in protecting yourself against the flu. For many people, the flu means a fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle aches, fatigue, and miserable days spent in bed. For others, it means hospitalization and even death. According to the CDC, more than 200,000 people are hospitalized in the U.S. from flu complications each year. Over a period of 30 years, between 1976 and 2006, CDC estimates of yearly flu-associated deaths in the U.S. range from a low of about 3,000 to a high of about 49,000 people during the most severe season.
How long does the vaccine take to work?
Flu vaccines cause antibodies to develop in the body about two weeks after vaccination. These antibodies provide protection from up to four different strains of influenza.
Who should get vaccinated?
Anyone over 6 months of age, but vaccination is especially important for those in high risk groups, such as pregnant women, adults over 65, young children and those with chronic conditions. Remember, getting a flu vaccine helps protect not only yourself, but also those around you because it decreases the risk of you spreading the illness to them.
Who should not be vaccinated?
Different flu vaccines are approved for use in different groups of people. Factors that can determine a person's suitability for vaccination, or vaccination with a particular vaccine, include a person's age, health (current and past) and any relevant allergies, including an egg allergy. More information on who should not receive the vaccine can be found on the CDC’s website here.
How do you get the flu?
Most experts believe that you get the flu when a person with the flu coughs, sneezes, or talks and droplets containing their germs land in your mouth or nose. You can also get the flu by touching a surface or object that has the flu virus on it and then touching your mouth, eyes or nose. On average, we touch our faces three to 16 times per hour! This is why frequent and thorough hand washing is so important.
I had the vaccine in the past and still got the flu. Why is that?
This can happen for several reasons:
- The flu vaccine protects against the viruses that research indicates will be the most common during the upcoming season. There are dozens of strains of influenza, so it's possible to get the vaccine and still get exposed to a strain that's not in the vaccine.
- In addition, no vaccine is 100% effective, but the influenza vaccine is still the best tool we have to prevent the flu.
- And finally, the vaccine takes two weeks to be fully effective. It’s possible to get the flu during this time if exposed, which is why it’s recommended to get vaccinated in September or as soon as the vaccine is available.
What should I do if I get the flu?
Those in high risk groups (adults over 65, those with chronic conditions, young children and pregnant women) should talk with their doctor. He or she may prescribe antiviral medication, which can lessen symptoms and shorten your sick time. Antivirals may also prevent serious complications. It's important to get antiviral medicines quickly because they work best when started within two days of the beginning of symptoms. And remember, please stay home, away from friends, family and loved ones if you’re sick.
What’s the best way to fight the flu?
The four most important steps in fighting the flu are:
- Wash your hands well and often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds,
- Cover your cough/sneeze,
- Stay home when you are sick and keep your children home when they are, and
- Get vaccinated.
Click here for more information about influenza and vaccination.
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