Influenza and Influenza Vaccine
What Is Influenza ("FLU")? Influenza is a viral infection of the nose, throat, bronchial tubes, and lungs that can make people of any age ill. Usually it occurs in the United States from about November to April. Symptoms include fever, chills, cough, and soreness and aching in the back, arms, and legs. Although most people are ill for only a few days, some have a much more serious illness and may require hospitalization. On average, thousands of people die each year in the United States from flu or related complications.
Who Should Receive Influenza Vaccine? Because influenza is usually mild and most people recover fully, health officials emphasize the use of vaccine primarily for the elderly and people with other health problems who are more likely to become seriously ill or die from flu or its complications. For example, people who after even light exercise become short of breath due to diseases affecting their heart or lungs, and people who have low resistance to infections, are likely to be more seriously affected. Thus, the following groups are at highest risk for serious illness with flu and have been particularly recommended to receive vaccine:
- Adults and children with long-term heart or lung problems which caused them to see a doctor regularly, or to be admitted to a hospital for care during the past year.
- Residents of nursing homes and other institutions housing patients of any age who have serious long-term health problems.
Other groups who are at moderately increased risk for serious illness with flu and who public health authorities feel should be vaccinated if possible are:
- Healthy people over 65 years of age.
- People of any age who during the past year have regularly seen a doctor for, or have been admitted to a hospital for, treatment of kidney disease, cystic fibrosis, diabetes, anemia or severe asthma.
- People who have a type of cancer or immunological disorder (or use certain types of medicines) that lowers the body's normal resistance to infections.
- Children or teenagers (6 months through 18 years of age) on long-term treatment with aspirin who, if they catch flu, may be at risk for developing Reye syndrome (a childhood disease that causes coma, liver damage, and death).
The possibility for spreading the flu to high-risk persons can be reduced by vaccinating:
- Individuals who provide care to high-risk persons at home, such as visiting nurses and volunteers, as well as all household members, including children, whether or not they are providers of care.
In addition, a flu shot should be given to anyone who wishes to redue his/her chances of catching the flu.
Influenza Vaccine: The viruses that cause flu frequently change, so people who have been infected or given a flu shot in previous years may become infected with a new strain. Because of this, and because immunity produced by the flu shot will possibly decrease in the year after vaccination, persons in the high-risk groups listed above should be vaccinated by every year. All viruses in the vaccine are killed so they cannot infect anyone. Vaccine will begin to provide its protective effect after about one or two weeks, and immunity may decrease, on average, after several months. Flu shots will not protect all persons against flu. The also will not protect against other illnesses that resemble flu.
Dosage: Only a single flu shot is needed each season for persons older than 12 years, but children 12 years or less may need a second shot after about a month. The doctor or nurse giving the flu shot will discuss this with parents or guardians. Children should be given only vaccine that has been chemically treated during manufacture ("split virus") to reduce chances of any side effects. Split-virus vaccine can also be used by adults.
Injection: Flu shots are given by injection into a muscle of the upper arm. Please wear clothing with sleeves that can be rolled up nearly to the shoulder; or you may also remove your shirt or blouse for the shot.
Possible Side Effects From The Vaccine: Most people have no side effects form recent influenza vaccines. The injection may cause soreness for a day or two at the site of the injection and occasionally may also cause fever or achiness for one or two days. Unlike the 1976 swine flu vaccine, recent flu shots have not been clearly linked to the paralytic illness Guillian-Barre Syndrome. As is the case with most drugs or vaccines, there is a slight possibility that allergic or more serious reactions, or even death, could occur with the flu shot. Because allergic reactions usually appear within a short time, you will be asked to remain in the Medical Services area for 20 minutes after you receive a flu shot.
Warning -- Some People Should Check With A Doctor Before Taking Influenza Vaccine:
- Persons who should not be given the flu shot include those with an allergy to eggs.
- Anyone who has ever been paralyzed with Guillian-Barre Syndrome.
- Women who might be pregnant should seek advice from their doctor about flu shots.
- Persons who are ill or have a fever should delay vaccination until the fever and other temporary symptoms have gone.
Questions: If you have any questions about influenza or influenza vaccination, please call Occupational Health & Safety at ext. 7539.