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A Short Guide to Everything You Need to Know About the “Flu.” By Our September Student Pharmacist, Chris Santos.

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What is the Influenza virus or “flu”?

The “flu” is a highly contagious virus that infects our respiratory system—nose, throat, and lungs.

A person experiencing an influenza infection may have:

  • fever/chills
  • sore throat
  • muscle aches
  • fatigue
  • cough
  • headache
  • runny or stuffy nose

These symptoms begin one to four days (average two days) after you are exposed to the virus.

How common is the “flu” virus infection?

  • Each year between October and February, the influenza virus infects approximately 5% to 20% of the United States population.

Who has the highest rate of “flu” infection?

  • Infants and young children have the highest rates of an influenza infection. An influenza infection is the leading cause of office and emergency department visits by infants and young children.

Who has the highest risk for complication, hospitalization, and death?

  • Adults aged 65 and older are at the highest risk for complications, hospitalization, and death.

How can I become infected with the “flu” virus?

  • The influenza virus spreads most commonly to those in close contact with an infected person who is sneezing or coughing. Although less common, the virus can also spread when a person touches an infected surface or object and then touches their mouth, eyes, or nose.

How do I prevent a “flu” virus infection?

  • The most important step you can take to prevent a “flu” infection is to get a flu shot. Even if you get the flu shot, you will experience fewer symptoms if you are infected. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends frequent hand washes and staying away from those infected as additional prevention strategies. 

How long am I contagious with the “flu” infection?

  • You can spread the “flu” virus one day before experiencing “flu” like symptoms and five to seven days after becoming sick. Younger children and adults with a weaken immune system can spread the virus for a longer period.

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What should I know about flu vaccine?

  • The flu vaccine exposes your body to a dead virus strain to build your immune response.
  • Each year, scientists change the “flu” virus strain in the vaccine to predict the most prevalent virus.
  • The flu vaccine does not contain a live virus and it cannot cause you to experience symptoms of the flu.
  • It takes two weeks for your body to fully develop protection against the flu virus. You can get the flu within these two weeks, as you haven’t developed full protection—the full protection lasts the entire flu season.
  • The vaccine cannot provide protection against a flu virus not covered by the vaccine. Even though the strain may not exactly match, it can still offer you some protection.
  • Thimerosal, a preservative for the “flu” vaccine, does not cause any harm. Flu vaccines without a thimerosal preservative are available.

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Who should not get the flu vaccine?

  • If you have any severe allergic reactions to any components of the flu vaccine, please discuss this with you doctor or pharmacist.
  • If you ever had Guillain-Barre syndrome, please discuss this with your doctor.
  • If you are not feeling well, your pharmacist may ask you to come back another date when you are feeling better to get the vaccine.

What are some reactions to the flu vaccine?

  • Patients are most likely to experience injection site reaction of pain, redness, swelling, and soreness.
  • Other possible side effects include: hoarseness, cough, fever, aches, headache, itching, or fatigue.
  • To help manage local site reactions, apply cold compresses. You can also take acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or naproxen to help.
  • If local site reactions worsen after three days or last longer than seven days, you should see your primary care physician.

These side effects occur immediately after the shot and last about one to two days.








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