Influenza is a serious disease that can lead to hospitalization and sometimes even death. Every flu season is different, and influenza infection can affect people differently. Even healthy people can get very sick from the flu and spread it to others.
The best defense against getting the flu is to get a flu shot each year. This year, getting a flu vaccine is more important than ever to protect yourself and the people around you from the flu, as well as to reduce the strain on healthcare systems responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Flu vaccination prevents millions of illnesses and flu-related doctor’s visits each year. Getting vaccinated can protect those around you, including those who are more vulnerable to serious flu illness, including babies and young children, older people, pregnant women, and people with certain chronic health conditions. The CDC recommends everyone six months of age and older get a flu vaccine every year.
This fall and winter, it’s likely that flu viruses and the virus that causes COVID-19 will both spread, and healthcare systems could be overwhelmed treating both patients with flu and patients with COVID-19. While getting a flu vaccine will not protect against COVID-19, flu vaccines have been shown to reduce the risk of flu illness, hospitalization, and death.
Flu vaccines cause antibodies to develop in the body about two weeks after vaccination. These antibodies provide protection against infection with the viruses in the vaccine. The seasonal flu vaccine protects against the influenza viruses that research indicates will be most common during the upcoming season.
Contrary to some rumors, getting the flu vaccine cannot cause someone to get the flu. The vaccines contain either inactivated (not infectious) virus or a particle designed to look like a flu virus to your immune system. Although the nasal spray flu vaccine does contain a live virus, the viruses are changed so they can’t give someone the flu.
Just like any medical product, the flu vaccine can cause side effects, but these are usually mild and go away within a few days. Common side effects from the flu shot include soreness, redness, or swelling at the injection site; headache; fever; and muscle aches.
When should you get a flu vaccine? As soon as possible! It's best to get vaccinated before flu begins spreading in your community, and it takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies that protect against flu to develop in the body. The CDC recommends that people get a flu vaccine by the end of October, but getting vaccinated later can still be beneficial.
To offer the flu vaccine to as many patients as possible and in the safest manner possible, the Mount Nittany Physician Group is hosting several drive-up and in-person flu clinics this fall. An appointment is needed.
For more information, answers to frequently asked questions, and instructions for scheduling an appointment, visit mountnittany.org/flu.