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The Flu and YOU - Frequently Asked Questions | Print |

1.   What is influenza or “flu” and what are the symptoms?

A: Influenza is a respiratory illness caused by the influenza virus. Symptoms include fever (though some people won’t develop one), cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches, fatigue, and some people may experience vomiting and diarrhea (more common in children than adults).

2. I got the influenza shot last year, so why do I need to get one this year?

A: Your body’s immune response to the vaccine declines over time, so it is best to get vaccinated every year. Also, influenza viruses are constantly changing, and the formulation of the vaccine is reviewed annually.

3. Can I still get vaccinated?

A: Yes. As long as influenza is circulating there is still time to get the vaccine.

4. Some news reports have claimed the influenza vaccine is expected to be only 10% effective this year. Is this true?

A: We do not know the vaccine effectiveness for this influenza season. The 10% effectiveness comes from Australia’s influenza season. This may not be predictive of what happens in the United States. Differences in effectiveness estimates from the United States compared with Australia may be due to differences in studies that measure vaccine effectiveness, such as smaller sample size.
While influenza A(H3N2) is the most common virus this season, both influenza A(H1N2) and influenza B are circulating.

5. What factors influence how well the vaccine works?

A: The effectiveness of the vaccine can change from season to season. The effectiveness can also vary depending on who is being vaccinated. Two factors that play an important role in determining effectiveness are 1.) characteristics of the person being vaccinated (age and health) and 2.) the “match”, or similarity, between the influenza viruses in the vaccine and the influenza viruses circulating in the community.

6. Why is it important to stay home when your doctor says you have influenza or the flu?

A: It is important to stay home to reduce the spread of influenza in the community.

7.   What groups are more susceptible to influenza?

A: While most people who get infected with influenza will recover in a few days to less than two weeks, anyone can develop serious problems related to influenza. However, some people are at high risk for serious complications, including people less than 5 years of age, people over 65 years of age, pregnant women, and people at any age with certain chronic medical conditions (asthma, diabetes, or heart disease).

8. If you do not go to the doctor, how should you treat yourself?

A: If you are sick, stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone (without the use of fever-reducing medicine, such as acetaminophen) except to get medical care or other necessities. Antiviral medications, prescribed by a clinician, must be taken early in the course of infection to be effective.

9. What are the specific dangers of influenza to seniors and to others with chronic diseases?

A: Influenza can be deadly for anyone. While illness can range from mild to severe, seniors and people with chronic diseases are at high risk for developing influenza-related complications that can lead to hospitalization and death. Influenza can make chronic medical problems worse. For example, people with asthma may experience asthma attacks while ill.

10. How dangerous can influenza be for children?

A: Children less than 5 years of age, especially children under 2 years old, are at high risk for developing Influenza-related complications. While illness can range from mild to severe, young children are at higher risk for developing complications that can lead to hospitalization and death.

11. What are some complications of influenza for those with chronic medical conditions?

A: While most people will recover in several days to less than two weeks, others will develop complications as a result of influenza. This can range from sinus and ear infections to pneumonia. Influenza can also lead to sepsis or inflammation of the heart, brain, and muscle tissues. Influenza can make chronic medical problems worse. For example, people with asthma may experience asthma attacks while ill.

12. How long is a person with Influenza contagious?

A: People with influenza are most contagious in the first 3-4 days after their illness begins. However, you can be contagious 1 day BEFORE symptoms develop and up to 5 to 7 days after becoming sick.

13. What can I do to protect myself and others from getting influenza?

A: The best way to protect against influenza is to get vaccinated. Also, take everyday steps to prevent the spread of illness by washing your hands, covering your mouth and nose when you cough and sneeze, staying home if you are sick, avoiding close contact with sick people, and cleaning and disinfecting surfaces and objects that may be contaminated.


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Welcome to the Fulton County Department of Health & Wellness Website. I am Kathleen Toomey, M.D., M.P.H.,District Health Director.

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