Influenza, also known as the flu, is contagious and caused by a family of influenza viruses. It is spread by coughing, and sneezing, as well as touching eyes, nose, and mouth with contaminated hands. The flu is different from a cold. Flu usually starts suddenly and can cause fever, headache, extreme tiredness, sore throat, cough and body aches. Although most of us who get the flu only have to miss a few days from school or work, the flu causes thousands of hospitalizations and deaths each year among the high-risk groups. For more information about the flu, how it spreads, and who are the high-risk groups, see the CDC's website.
Tips to Protect Yourself and Others from Flu and Other Respiratory Diseases
Wash your hands frequently with soap and water, or use a hand sanitizer
Cover your mouth with a tissue when you sneeze or cough
Use a tissue to wipe your nose
Stay home to avoid spreading germs if you or your family members are coughing, sneezing or have aches or fever associated with the flu
Wear a mask to cover your face in a medical office, if asked
When should you get the flu vaccine?
The best time to get flu vaccine is October and November. The flu season is typically between December and March with the peak month varying by year. However, if you miss getting the vaccine by November, get the vaccine anytime throughout the flu season.
For children less than 9 years old who are getting the flu vaccine for the first time, 2 doses of vaccine are given 1 month apart.
Why should pregnant women get the flu vaccine?
While pregnant women are advised to wait until after giving birth to get most vaccines, the influenza vaccine is specifically recommended during pregnancy. This is because women are at an increased risk of suffering complications and hospitalization if they become ill with influenza while pregnant.
Pregnant women are at increased risk because they:
Have decreased lung volume
Have increased blood volume (which leads to increased fluid in the lungs)