By getting flu vaccine you can protect yourself from influenza and may also avoid spreading influenza to others. Inluenza (“flu”) is a contagious disease. It is caused by the influenza virus, which can be spread by coughing, sneezing, or nasal secretions. Anyone can get influenza, but rates of infection are highest among children. For most people, symptoms are severe for a few days but last for 2 weeks. They include: fever/chills, sore throat, muscle aches, fatigue, cough, headache, and runny or stuffy nose.
Flu can cause high fever and pneumonia, and make existing medical conditions worse. It can cause diarrhea and seizures in children. Each year thousands of people die from influenza and even more require hospitalization. Young children, people 65 and older, pregnant women, and people with certain health conditions, such as heart, lung or kidney disease, or a weakened immune system are especially vulnerable.
Annual flu shots have been thoroughly proven to both save lives and reduce medical costs. While they are only 50 % effective in eliminating influenza illness, when the circulating flu virus is in the vaccine there is a dramatic reduction in the severity of the illness. This means people don't lose a week or two of work, which is very costly and miserable for you the patient.
There is a dramatic reduction in the number of respiratory hospitalizations in the winter months in all age groups when patients receive the vaccine, over 50%, and a similar dramatic reduction in respiratory deaths. The decreased hospitalization costs save the insurance company a lot of money, much more than they spend in flu shot costs.
All people 6 months of age and older should get flu vaccine. Vaccination is especially important for people at higher risk of severe influenza and their close contacts, including healthcare personnel and close contacts of children younger than 6 months.
Influenza can occur at any time, but most influenza occurs from October through May. We will begin to give flu shots September 1st. In recent seasons, most infections have occurred in January and February; getting vaccinated in December, or even later, will still be beneficial in most years.