Questions & Answers
Influenza - Seasonal - Myths and Facts
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Questions
Answers

Myths

  1. Myth #1: Having influenza is similar to getting a cold; therefore, an immunization is not really necessary.
    Fact: On average, more than 226,000 people are hospitalized from flu complications, including 20,000 children; about 36,000 people die from influenza each year. Vaccination provides the best protection available from the influenza virus - even when the vaccine does not closely matchthe circulating flu strains. A vaccination may lessen influenza illness severity and is important for persons at high-risk for serious flu-related complications and for close contacts of high-risk individuals. Ref: http://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/qa/flushot.htm and http://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/qa/disease.htm.

  2. Myth #2: Side effects from the influenza vaccine are worse than influenza itself.
    Fact: The most common side effect you are likely to experience with the injectable influenza vaccine is a sore arm. The risk of a rare allergic reaction is far less than the risk of severe complications from influenza. Live, intranasal influenza vaccine can cause mild symptoms in the recipient. Common side effects can include runny nose, headache, fever, cough, and sore throat. Ref: http://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/qa/flushot.htm

  3. Myth #3: Only elderly people really need the influenza vaccine.
    Fact: Among elderly persons not living in chronic-care facilities (such as nursing homes) and those persons with long-term (chronic) medical conditions (such as asthma, diabetes, or heart disease), influenza vaccinations are 30-70% effective in preventing hospitalization for pneumonia (a lung infection) and influenza. Among elderly nursing home residents, influenza vaccinations are the most effective in preventing severe illness, complications that may follow influenza (like pneumonia), and deaths related to influenza. Because persons aged 65 years and older are at highest risk for serious complications from influenza, it is also important that people who live with or care for those at high risk for serious complications get an influenza vaccination. Children younger than 6 months of age are at the most risk for having complications from influenza. However, they are too young to get the influenza vaccination. To protect these infants, it is very important that their household members and out-of-home caregivers be vaccinated against influenza. Influenza vaccine can prevent 66% or more influenza infections in young children, with even higher estimates for older children, when the vaccine strains are well matched to the flu viruses causing illness. Vaccinating close contacts of children can also help decrease children's risk of getting influenza. Everyone who is healthy and eligible to receive the vaccine should take advantage of the opportunity to boost their immunity to seasonal influenza. Ref: http://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/qa/vaccineeffect.htm

  4. Myth #4: You must get the influenza vaccine before the influenza season, or it is not worth getting.
    Fact: Influenza vaccine can be given before or during the influenza season. Influenza vaccinations provide protection against the influenza strains contained in the vaccine during that influenza season. Vaccinations should begin as soon as vaccine is available and continue throughout the influenza season. Ref: http://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/qa/misconceptions.htm.

  5. Myth #5: I can take medications prescribed by my doctor instead of getting the influenza vaccine.
    Fact: Antiviral medications given within the first few days of symptom onset can reduce the duration and severity of the disease, but cannot cure it. These drugs are not a substitute for the influenza vaccine. Remember, influenza vaccine is the first and best defense against seasonal influenza, but antiviral drugs can be an important second line of defense to treat influenza or prevent influenza infection. Ref: http://www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/antiviral/keyfacts.htm.

Facts

  1. Fact #1: Even if I get the influenza vaccine, can I still be infected with influenza?
    Yes. Influenza viruses are always changing. They can change from the time the vaccine is recommended and the beginning of influenza season, or they can even change during a season. Each year, experts study thousands of influenza virus samples from around the world to figure out which viruses are making people sick and how these viruses are changing. With this information, they forecast which three virus strains are most likely to make the most people sick during the next influenza season. Each year, the seasonal influenza vaccine contains three influenza virus strains – one influenza A (H3N2) virus, one influenza A (H1N1) virus, and one influenza B virus. The selection of which viruses to include in the vaccine must be made in February of the prior year in order for vaccine to be produced in time for distribution the following season. When influenza viruses change, they may no longer closely match viruses used to make that season's influenza vaccine. This can make the vaccine less effective. But, even when this happens, the vaccine can still offer some cross-protection: The vaccine contains three viruses, so it can protect you against the other two viruses that may be making people sick. The immune protection you get from the vaccine can provide partial protection against influenza viruses that are related to those used to make the vaccine (this is called cross-protection). So while a less-than-ideal match can reduce vaccine benefit, the vaccine can still provide enough protection to make illness less severe and prevent influenza-related complications. A less-than-perfect vaccine is still the best protection we have against influenza. That is why CDC continues to recommend getting the vaccine even when there is a less-than-perfect match. Ref: http://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/qa/season.htm and http://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/qa/vaccineeffect.htm