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A yearly flu vaccine is recommended for everyone 6 months and older as the first and most important step in protecting against this serious disease. The 2011-2012 flu vaccine will protect against three different flu viruses: H1N1, H3N2 and influenza B.
Influenza (the flu) is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death. Some people, such as young children, older people, pregnant women and people with certain long-term health conditions, are at high risk for serious flu complications.
How to Protect Yourself
The single best way to prevent the flu is to get a flu vaccine every year.
Everyone 6 months and older should get a flu vaccine. While everyone should get a flu vaccine each flu season, it’s especially important that certain people get vaccinated either because they are at high risk of having serious flu-related complications or because they live with or care for people at high risk for developing flu-related complications.
There are two types of flu vaccines:
- The "flu shot" – an inactivated vaccine (containing killed virus) that is given with a needle. The seasonal flu shot is approved for use in people 6 months of age and older, including healthy people, people with chronic medical conditions and pregnant women.
- The nasal-spray flu vaccine – a vaccine made with live, weakened flu viruses that do not cause the flu (sometimes called LAIV for "Live Attenuated Influenza Vaccine"). LAIV is approved for use in healthy people 2-49 years of age who are not pregnant.
How To Protect You and Your Family from the Flu
- Get the Flu Vaccine
- Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, and throw the tissue in the trash after using it. If you do not have a tissue, cover your coughs and sneezes with the inside of your elbow, not your bare hands.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Germs spread this way.
- Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
- If you are sick with flu-like illness, it is recommended that you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities. (Your fever should be gone without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.)
- While sick, limit contact with others as much as possible to keep from infecting them.
What to Do if You Think You Have the Flu
Your illness might be the flu if you have fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue.
Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea. People may be infected with the flu and have respiratory symptoms without a fever.
If you develop flu-like symptoms and are concerned about your illness, especially if are at high risk for complications of the flu, you should consult your healthcare provider. Those at high risk for complications include people 65 years or older, people with certain long-term health conditions (such as asthma, diabetes, or heart disease), pregnant women and young children.
For Additional Information:
Seasonal Influenza: Flu Basics
Preventing Seasonal Flu With Vaccination
Questions & Answers: Vaccine Effectiveness
Good Health Habits for Preventing Seasonal Flu
Treating Seasonal Flu With Antiviral Drugs