While flu activity is decreasing nationally, ongoing activity is expected to continue for a number of weeks. Influenza activity usually peaks in January or February, but it can last until May or later. The timing and duration of influenza seasons vary year to year.
The national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) continues to recommend vaccination as long as influenza viruses are circulating. The CDC also recommends that patients suspected of having influenza who are at high-risk of flu complications or who are very sick with flu-like symptoms receive prompt treatment with influenza antiviral drugs.
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.
Where can I get a vaccination?
Flu vaccination is still recommend because the flu viruses are still circulating. Free flu vaccinations are available at all three Knox County Health Department (KCHD) locations – see the sidebar on the right for directions to our offices. To schedule an appointment, call 865-215-5070.
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 the viruses that are in the vaccine.
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, including:
- The flu vaccine protects against the viruses that research indicates will be most common during the upcoming season. Traditional flu vaccines (called trivalent vaccines) are made to protect against three flu viruses: an influenza A (H1N1) virus, an influenza A (H3N2) virus, and an influenza B virus. In addition, there are also vaccines made to protect against four flu viruses (called “quadrivalent” vaccines). These vaccines protect against the same viruses as the trivalent vaccine and an additional B virus. There are dozens of strains of influenza viruses, 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. In late February, the CDC reported flu vaccine effectiveness of nearly 60% this season.
- And finally, the vaccine takes two weeks to be fully effective. It’s possible to get the flu during this time if exposed.
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