Karen Buchanan, registered nurse and director of nursing at the Jefferson County Health Department, gives a flu shot to Lela Mahoney on Thursday. (Staff photos by Ken Ritchie/kritchie@madisoncourier.com)
Karen Buchanan, registered nurse and director of nursing at the Jefferson County Health Department, gives a flu shot to Lela Mahoney on Thursday. (Staff photos by Ken Ritchie/kritchie@madisoncourier.com)
What is influenza (commonly called the flu)?

The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses that infect the nose, throat, and lungs. It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death. The best way to prevent the flu is by getting a flu vaccine each year.

What are some of the symptoms of the flu?

People who have the flu often feel some or all of these signs and symptoms: Fever or feeling feverish/chills, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches and fatigue.

How does the flu spread?

Most experts believe that flu viruses spread mainly by droplets made when people with flu cough, sneeze or talk. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby. Less often, a person might also get flu by touching a surface or object that has flu virus on it and then touching their own mouth, eyes or possibly their nose.

Where can I get a flu shot?

Flu shots are available at the Jefferson County Health Department or at King's Daughters' Hospital. Shots can also be received from private doctors. Call your local pharmacy to check the availability of the shot at that location.

The single best way to prevent the flu is to get a flu vaccine each season. There are two types of flu vaccines.

The first is the flu shot, which is inactivated vaccines that are given with a needle. There are three flu shots being produced for the market now.

• The regular seasonal flu shot is "intramuscular" which means it is injected into muscle (usually in the upper arm). It has been used for decades and is approved for use in people 6 months of age and older, including healthy people, people with chronic medical conditions and pregnant women. Regular flu shots make up the bulk of the vaccine supply produced.

• A high-dose vaccine for people 65 and older which also is intramuscular.

• An intradermal vaccine for people 18 to 64 years of age which is injected with a needle into the skin.

The nasal-spray flu vaccine - a vaccine made with live, weakened flu viruses that is given as a nasal spray. The viruses in the nasal spray vaccine do not cause the flu. It is approved for use in healthy people 2 to 49 years of age who are not pregnant.

Yearly flu vaccination should begin in September, or as soon as vaccine is available, and continue through the flu season which can last as late as May. This is because the timing and duration of flu seasons vary. While flu season can begin early as October, most of the time seasonal flu activity peaks in January or February.

Everyone 6 months and older should get a flu vaccine each year. The people at the highest risk for developing flu-related complications include children younger than 5, adults older than 65, pregnant women and people with existing medical conditions, including asthma or heart disease.



INFORMATION PROVIDED BY THE CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION