WASHINGTON, DC--(Marketwired - December 10, 2013) - "Flu season typically peaks in February and can last as late as May," says Dr. Anne Schuchat, Assistant Surgeon General of the U.S. Public Health Service and Director of CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. "We are encouraging people who have not yet been vaccinated this season to get vaccinated now."
For millions of people every season, the flu can mean a fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle aches, fatigue, and miserable days spent in bed. However, you may not realize that more than 200,000 people are hospitalized in the United States from flu complications each year. The flu also can be deadly: Over a period of 30 years, between 1976 and 2006, estimates of yearly flu-associated deaths in the United States range from a low of about 3,000 to a high of about 49,000 people during the most severe season.
This is why CDC recommends an annual flu vaccine for everyone 6 months and older. It's available as a shot and as a nasal spray. There are many flu shot options available this year, including a flu shot that protects against three flu viruses, a shot that protects against four flu viruses, an intradermal flu shot (for adults 18 through 64 years of age), an egg-free shot (for adults 18 through 49 years of age), and a high-dose flu shot (for people 65 and older). The nasal spray vaccine, which protects against four flu viruses, is approved only for use in healthy people ages 2 to 49 years who aren't pregnant. CDC has not expressed any preference for one type of vaccine over another. "The most important thing is that you get vaccinated, not necessarily which vaccine you get," says Dr. Schuchat. Talk to your health care provider about the different vaccine options if you have questions.
Anyone can get the flu, but some people are at greater risk for serious flu-related complications, like pneumonia, that can lead to hospitalization and even death. For those at greater risk for complications, getting the flu vaccine is especially important. People at greater risk include, but are not limited to:
- Children younger than 5 years old, and especially children younger than 2 years old
- Pregnant women
- People 65 years and older
- People with certain medical conditions like asthma, diabetes, or heart and lung disease
Ask your doctor if you are uncertain whether you or your family are at a greater risk for flu complications. It's also important to get the vaccine if you care for anyone at high risk, including babies younger than 6 months because they are too young to get the vaccine. Children 6 months through 8 years of age who are getting vaccinated for the first time need two doses of flu vaccine to be fully protected. If a child has not received his/her first dose, get them vaccinated now. For children who are 6 months through 8 years of age and who have been vaccinated with one dose, parents should check with the child's doctor to see if a second dose is needed.
"Getting the flu vaccine is simple, and it's the most important thing you can do to protect yourself and your family from the flu," says Dr. Schuchat. Flu vaccination can reduce flu illnesses, doctors' visits, missed work due to flu, as well as prevent flu-related hospitalizations and deaths. Millions of people have safely received flu vaccines for decades.
Flu vaccines are offered in many locations, including doctor's offices, clinics, health departments, pharmacies and college health centers. They also are offered by many employers, and are even available in some schools. So next time you see a sign that says, "Get Your Flu Vaccine Here," stop in and get your flu vaccine. Or make an appointment with your doctor or clinic today. The CDC is having flu vaccination events in Richmond, VA; Los Angeles, CA; Washington, DC; Atlanta, GA; Detroit, MI and Reno, NV among other cities during the 2013 National Influenza Vaccination Week (NIVW). Use the Flu Vaccine Finder at http://ﬂushot.healthmap.org to find the nearest location where you and your family can get vaccinated.
As part of the Affordable Care Act, all plans in the Health Insurance Marketplace and other plans will provide many free preventive services, including flu vaccinations. For information about the Health Insurance Marketplace, visit www.HealthCare.gov. For more information about influenza or the flu vaccine, talk to your doctor or nurse, visit http://www.cdc.gov/flu or call CDC at 1-800-CDC-INFO (800-232-4636).