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What You Need to Know About Flu Season

The Iowa Clinic urges you to get a flu shot.


Your Local Health | Written by BJ Towe

“Devastating” is the word Kevin Cunningham, M.D., Chief Medical Officer and an Internal Medicine physician with The Iowa Clinic, uses to describe the 2014 - 2015 flu season in Iowa. The number of flu cases, hospitalizations, and deaths – even among otherwise healthy individuals – reached epidemic proportions.

“To help protect you, your family, and your neighbors, The Iowa Clinic joins the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention in advising virtually everyone over the age of 6 months to get vaccinated every year,” Cunningham says.

“The Iowa Clinic follows the CDC's recommendations for getting the flu shot,” says Cunningham. Below are answers to some common questions about the flu and flu vaccinations. For more information – including flu symptoms, how it spreads, higher risk groups and the upcoming flu season – visit www.cdc.gov/flu and click on “FLU BASICS.”

When does flu season begin?

It varies every year, but in Iowa the flu tends to hit hardest November through February. In Iowa, the most cases of the flu typically occur during January and February.

When is the best time to get a flu shot?

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention recommends getting the flu shot as soon as the vaccine becomes available. It's not unreasonable for kids to get the vaccine at the same time as their school physicals in late summer and early autumn. Because the vaccine takes 10 to 14 days to become effective, people should definitely be vaccinated before Halloween and absolutely have it done at least two weeks before Thanksgiving. That said, as long as the flu virus is circulating, it's not too late to get a shot.

How long does the vaccine provide protection?

The CDC believes the vaccine will protect most people throughout the flu season.

Why doesn't the shot protect against all strains of the flu?

Flu viruses vary year to year. The vaccine must be produced months in advance of flu season, before it's possible to know how the viruses may have changed. Still, getting the vaccine is your best protection.

Who should get the shot?

Everyone over the age of 6 months should be vaccinated every flu season. It's especially important for people who are at high risk for developing flu-related complications, such as children under age 5, adults over age 65, and individuals with chronic diseases such as asthma.

Is there anyone who shouldn't be vaccinated?

There are different vaccines formulated for different groups of people, so nearly everyone can get a shot. People with a severe egg allergy or certain other conditions may not be suitable for a vaccine. Your healthcare provider can help determine if the vaccine is safe for you.

Which is better: The nasal spray or the injection?

Because the nasal spray and the injection are shown to be equally effective, there is no preference for this flu season.

What if the shot makes me feel sick for a couple of days?

First, you cannot get the flu from a flu shot. But you might have some minor reactions to the shot for a couple of days, such as body aches and a low-grade fever. But those reactions are definitely worth avoiding potentially being in a hospital on a respirator, or worse.

If I get vaccinated, can I still get the flu?

Yes, but having a vaccine will likely make your illness milder.

Now's the time to schedule a flu shot with your primary care provider. It not only protects you, but also protects the people around you who are more vulnerable to serious flu illness. You can schedule your flu shot online or call The Iowa Clinic at 515-875-9000.

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