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Influenza Vaccine

(Flu Vaccine)

What Is Influenza?

Influenza (also called the flu) is an upper respiratory infection. It is caused by a strain of the influenza virus. There are many types of influenza viruses but there are two main kinds that infect humans:

Each year (usually beginning in October), the flu spreads around the world. You can get the flu when you breathe in droplets from someone infected with the virus. It can also be spread by touching a contaminated surface and then putting your hand to your mouth or nose. For most, the flu will cause fever, aches, fatigue, coughing, congestion, loss of appetite, and sore throat. However, some people are more vulnerable to more severe complications which may require hospitalization. Risk factors for severe complications include:

What Is the Influenza Vaccine?  ^

The flu shot is made from an inactivated, killed virus. There are three types of flu shots available:

There is also a nasal spray (FluMist) made from live, weakened flu viruses. The nasal spray is available for healthy people aged 2-49 years who are not pregnant. It is the preferred vaccine for healthy children who are 2 to 8 years of age.

The flu shots and nasal spray contain several influenza viral strains. The type of strains that the vaccine contains change from year to year. The strains are based on which viruses are likely to circulate during that flu season.

Who Should Get Vaccinated and When?  ^

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that anyone aged 6 months and older should get a flu shot. Children 6 months to 8 years of age will need 2 doses of the vaccine. This will help your child build immunity to the virus.

It takes about two weeks for the vaccination to protect you against the flu. Even if you have been vaccinated, you can still get the flu. If you have symptoms, tell your doctor.

You can get the flu anytime during the year. But, flu season typically lasts from October to May. The best time to get vaccinated is as soon as the vaccine is available. This will protect you before the flu comes to your community.

What Are the Risks Associated With the Influenza Vaccine?  ^

Almost all people who receive the influenza vaccine have no problems. There are certain risks associated with the vaccine. As with any vaccine, there is a small risk of serious problems, including severe allergic reaction.

Side effects associated with the flu shot include:

Side effects associated with the nasal spray vaccine include:

Who Should Not Get Vaccinated?  ^

Certain people should talk to their doctor before receiving the influenza vaccine. These include people who:

The following people should not get the nasal spray:

What Other Ways Can Influenza Be Prevented?  ^

Good preventive measures include:

What Happens in the Event of an Outbreak?  ^

In the event of an outbreak, the primary focus is to vaccinate as many at risk people as possible, especially those in high priority groups. The use of antiviral medications can reduce the length of the illness when given within two days of onset. Finally, people who are infected should be isolated as much as possible.

WHERE CAN I GET MORE INFORMATION?

Flu—United States Department of Health and Human Services
http://www.flu.gov

Vaccines & Immunizations
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines

Public Health Agency of Canada
http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca

Vaccines, Blood & Biologics
United States Food and Drug Administration
http://www.fda.gov/cber/vaccines.htm

REFERENCES:

Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. Prevention and control of influenza with vaccines: recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), 2013. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2013;62(18):356.

Fluzone high-dose seasonal influenza vaccine. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/vaccine/qa_fluzone.htm. Updated July 31, 2014. Accessed August 12, 2014.

Influenza in adults. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated June 16, 2014. Accessed August 12, 2014.

Influenza in children. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated June 23, 2014. Accessed August 12, 2014.

Influenza vaccine in adults. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated August 18, 2014. Accessed August 28, 2014.

Influenza vaccine in children. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated May 6, 2014. Accessed August 12, 2014.

Key facts about seasonal flu vaccine. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/keyfacts.htm. Updated March 6, 2014. Accessed August 12, 2014.

People at high risk of developing flu-related complications. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/disease/high_risk.htm. Updated November 7, 2013. Accessed August 12, 2014.

10/15/2007 DynaMed Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Nichol KL, Nordin JD, Nelson DB, Mullooly JP, Hak E. Effectiveness of influenza vaccine in the community-dwelling elderly. N Engl J Med. 2007;357:1373-1381.

3/5/2012 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: FDA approves first quadrivalent vaccine to prevent seasonal influenza. US Food and Drug Administration website. Available at: http://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/ucm294057.htm. Published Updated March 15, 2012. Accessed August 12, 2014.

2/11/2014 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Bridges C, Coyne-Beasley T. Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommended immunization schedules for adults aged 19 years or older: United States, 2014. Ann Intern Med. 2014;160(3):190-197.

8/28/2014 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. Prevention and control of influenza with vaccines: recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP)—United States, 2014-2015 influenza season. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2014;63(32):691-697.

Last reviewed August 2014 by Michael Woods, MDLast Updated: 12/2/2014