Influenza is a contagious disease. It can spread easily, transmitted by coughing and sneezing and contact with influenza-contaminated surfaces. During the winter flu season, it is almost impossible to avoid coming in contact with people who have the flu – at work, school, shopping, movie theaters, you name it.
Every winter, hundreds of thousands of people get sick with influenza. They have fevers, muscle aches, cough, and sore throats and generally feel miserable often for a week or two. Some only get mildly ill. Some become ill enough to require hospitalization. Most recover. But some will die.
If you get the flu, not only will you get sick, but you can spread it to your family, friends and co-workers. They may miss school and work and then spread it to others. Some may get seriously ill.
The illness and contagion of flu can all be prevented by a simple influenza vaccination. All individuals older than six months of age should be vaccinated. The only exception to this is people who have a life-threatening allergy to eggs.
The flu vaccination can be given in two ways:
- The standard “flu shot”
- Intra-nasal spray (no shot) if you are healthy, not pregnant and between 2 and 50 years of age.
In either form, the vaccine is safe and effective. You cannot get the flu from the flu vaccine. Since the flu bug changes every year, it is important you get vaccinated every year. Since the flu season in Vermont revs up in December, it is best to get vaccinated in the fall so you will be well protected.
Protect yourself, your family, friends and co-workers. Get vaccinated.
Christopher Grace, MD, is medical director of Infectious Disease at the UVM Medical Center and a Professor at the Larner College of Medicine at UVM.