Flu is caused by the influenza virus (A or B) and is a common cause of upper respiratory infections during the winter season. This virus is spread by coughing, sneezing, or nasal secretions. Typical symptoms are fever, cough, sore throat, headaches, chills, muscle aches and fatigue. However, flu can also cause high fever, pneumonia, and complicate existing medical conditions, leading to on average 226,000 hospitalizations and 36,000 deaths per year.
The influenza vaccine can prevent influenza and its related complications. The vaccine is an inactivated (killed vaccine) given as an injection, cannot transmit influenza, and is formulated to target the circulating strains (A&B). The 2012-13 flu vaccine provides protection against the three main viruses that research indicates will cause the most illness this season. The 2012-13 flu vaccine will protect against an influenza A (H3N2) virus, an influenza B virus, and the 2009 H1N1 virus that caused so much illness last season.
Everyone 6 months and older should get a flu vaccine each year. This recommendation has been in place since February 24, 2010 when CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) voted for “universal” flu vaccination in the U.S. to expand protection against the flu to more people.
Risks and Contraindications
- Complications are very rare and usually consist of local redness or pain at the injection site or mild fever and aches for 1-2 days after immunization. Serious reactions are very rare.
- If a person is allergic to eggs, they should not receive the influenza immunization
- Children younger than six months
- People who had a severe reaction to influenza vaccine in the past
- People who developed Guillan Barre Syndrome within six weeks of getting an influenza vaccine
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