We joined forces with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to share live education for the public about the 2019-2020 influenza (flu) season, and the importance of flu vaccination. As with our other programming, we fielded questions from the audience and conducted real-time polls during the presentation. This time around, we received so many great questions from the live audience that we weren’t able to answer all of them during the broadcast.
Can I ask my doctor for the flu vaccine if they haven’t offered it to me?
Yes, you can ask your doctor for a flu vaccine, but there are other options as well.
For example, flu vaccines are offered not just by many doctor’s offices, but also by clinics, health departments, pharmacies and college health centers, as well as by many employers, and even by some schools.
Even if you don’t have a regular doctor or nurse, you can get a flu vaccine somewhere else, like a health department, pharmacy, urgent care clinic, and often your school, college health center, or work.
The HealthMap Vaccine Finder can help you to locate where you can get a flu vaccine.
I’ve heard this year’s flu has already killed people – is that true?
Sadly, thousands to tens of thousands of people die with flu every year. According to CDC’s latest in-season flu burden estimates, at least 1,300 people died from flu between Oct. 1, 2019 and Dec. 7, 2019.
You can track how the season is progressing on CDC’s website, where weekly in-season flu burden estimates are posted, by visiting https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/burden/preliminary-in-season-estimates.htm.
You can also see flu activity by state by visiting https://www.cdc.gov/flu/weekly/index.htm#ILIActivityMap.
I read a news article that said the flu shot is not the right type for this year’s strain of flu. Is it still worth getting?
The season is just getting started, so it’s too early to know how well this season’s vaccines will work, but flu vaccination is always the best way to reduce the risk from flu and its potentially serious complications. Even if the vaccine doesn’t prevent illness, some studies have shown that it can reduce severity of illness in people who get vaccinated but still get sick. Also, remember that there are many different flu viruses that circulate each year, and most flu vaccines protect against 4 different flu viruses. Learn more about how well flu vaccines work by visiting https://www.cdc.gov/flu/vaccines-work/vaccineeffect.htm.
When is a person sick with flu contagious?
People with flu are most contagious in the first 3-4 days after their illness begins, and some otherwise healthy adults may be able to infect others beginning 1 day before symptoms develop and up to 5 to 7 days after becoming sick. Some people, however, especially young children and people with weakened immune systems, might be able to infect others with flu viruses for an even longer time.
Symptoms can begin about 2 days (but can range from 1 to 4 days) after the virus enters the body. That means that you may be able to pass on the flu to someone else before you know you are sick, as well as while you are sick. Some people can be infected with the flu virus but have no symptoms. During this time, those people may still spread the virus to others.
Learn more about how flu spreads by visiting https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/disease/spread.htm.
How long does the flu virus live on various surfaces and conditions?
Flu viruses can “live” on some surfaces for up to 48 hours. Routine cleaning of surfaces may reduce the spread of flu.
To learn more about how flu spreads, visit https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/disease/spread.htm.
To learn more about cleaning to prevent flu, visit https://www.cdc.gov/flu/resource-center/images/multi-language-pdfs/contamination_cleaning_english_508.pdf
Are there animals that are vectors for the flu virus?
Yes, wild birds are hosts to all influenza A viruses. Influenza A viruses also can be found in pigs, whales, horses, seals and cats. Influenza B viruses circulate widely only among humans.
While it is unusual for people to get influenza infections directly from animals, sporadic human infections and outbreaks caused by certain avian and swine influenza A viruses have been reported.
CDC has compiled two tables that show the different hemagglutinin and neuraminidase subtypes and the species in which they have been detected.
For more information, visit https://www.cdc.gov/flu/other/index.html.
Which type of flu vaccine is recommended?
There are many vaccine options to choose from. CDC does not recommend one flu vaccine over another. The most important thing is for all people 6 months of age and older to get a flu vaccine every year. If you have questions about which vaccine is best for you, talk to your doctor or other health care professional.
Different flu vaccines are approved for use in different groups of people. There are flu shots approved for use in children as young as 6 months of age and flu shots approved for use in adults 65 years and older. Flu shots also are recommended for use in pregnant women and people with certain chronic health conditions.
For more information on the flu vaccine, visit https://www.cdc.gov/flu/prevent/vaccinations.htm.
How do you predict which viruses will appear every flu season?
Forecasting what viruses will emerge to predominate during an upcoming flu season is very challenging. More than 100 national influenza centers in over 100 countries conduct year-round surveillance for influenza. This involves receiving and testing thousands of influenza virus samples from patients. Twice a year, global flu experts gather to review the results of surveillance, laboratory, and clinical studies, to try to predict what viruses will emerge so that those viruses can be included in vaccines.
Learn more about how flu vaccines are made by visiting https://www.cdc.gov/flu/prevent/vaccine-selection.htm.
How does flu vaccine help protect people with diabetes?
In recent seasons, about 30 percent of adult flu hospitalizations reported to CDC have had diabetes.
Flu vaccination has been shown to reduce the risk of getting sick with flu as well as reduce the risk of having a serious flu outcome like a stay in the hospital or even being admitted to the intensive care unit (ICU).
Flu vaccination also has been associated with reduced hospitalizations among people with diabetes (79%).
People with diabetes (type 1, type 2, or gestational), even when well-managed, are at high risk of serious flu complications, which can result in hospitalization and sometimes even death.
Pneumonia, bronchitis, sinus infections and ear infections are examples of flu-related complications.
Flu also can make chronic health problems, like diabetes, worse. This is because diabetes can make the immune system less able to fight infections. In addition, illness can make it harder to control your blood sugar. Flu may raise your sugar levels, but sometimes people don’t feel like eating when they are sick and a reduced appetite can cause blood sugar levels to fall. It is important for people with diabetes to follow the sick day guidelines if they become ill.
For more information on influenza and diabetes, visit https://www.cdc.gov/flu/highrisk/diabetes.htm.
A corresponding educational program designed for healthcare professionals can be found here.