Influenza

What is the Flu?
The flu, also known as influenza, is a contagious viral infection that sickens millions of people each year. It is unpleasant to have and places those with weak immune systems at high risk for serious flu complications such as pneumonia, heart attack, and stroke, which may lead to hospitalization or even death. Flu season begins around October and can last until May.

Flu Symptoms:
• Fever (usually high).
• Headache.
• Extreme tiredness.
• Dry cough.
• Sore throat.
• Runny or stuffy nose.
• Muscle aches.
• Stomach symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea can also occur, but are more common in children than adults.

What is the Flu Shot?
The flu shot is the single most effective way to guard yourself against the flu. A flu shot contains three inactive (dead) influenza viruses that are selected based on what is expected to hit during the flu season. The three viruses include two influenza A viruses and an influenza B virus.

The flu shot is given with a needle, usually in the arm. Viruses for the flu shot are grown in chicken eggs.

Who Should Get a Flu Shot?
• Anyone who wants to reduce their chances of getting influenza.
• Those at high risk of serious influenza complications:
o Children 6 months to 18 years old.
o Adults age 50 and older.
o Pregnant women.
o People with chronic health conditions (such as asthma, diabetes, or heart disease).
o People who live in nursing homes and other long-term-care facilities.
• Household contacts of people who are at high risk.
• Household contacts and out-of-home caregivers of children less than 6 months old.
• Health care workers, teachers, and those who could be exposed to the flu.

How Can I Get My Flu Shot?
For eligible HMSA members, flu shots are covered at 100 percent. Visit your doctor or an HMSA-sponsored clinic for your flu shot. You can also check with your local pharmacist to see if they are offering flu shots.

If you plan on attending an HMSA-sponsored clinic, you must:
• Be 18 years old or older (those under 18 years old should visit their doctor).
• Bring your HMSA member card.
• Bring your driver’s license or other photo ID.

For a list of HMSA’s flu shot clinics, go to hmsa.com September through December.

How Does the Flu Shot Work?
Around two weeks after getting your flu shot, your body develops antibodies. These antibodies protect you against circulating viruses that were given in the flu shot.

Can the Flu Shot Give Me the Flu?
No. During the process of making the flu vaccine, manufacturers kill the viruses so they cannot infect you. Batches of the vaccine are also tested to make sure they are safe.

Why Am I Sick, When I Received My Flu Shot for the Year?
How Effective is a Flu Shot?

When the viruses in the vaccine closely match the viruses that are circulating, the flu shot is:
• 70 percent to 90 percent effective for healthy people younger than age 65.
• 30 percent to 70 percent effective in preventing hospitalization for elderly people who do not live in a long-term-care facility and for those with chronic medical conditions, such as asthma, diabetes, or heart disease.
• 50 percent to 60 percent effective in preventing hospitalization for elderly people living in a long-term-care facility.
• 80 percent effective in preventing death from the flu for elderly people living in a long-term-care facility.

Who Shouldn’t Get a Flu Shot?
• Those who are severely allergic to chicken eggs.
• People who developed Guillain-Barre syndrome within six weeks after getting a flu shot.
• Infants younger than 6 months.
• Those who have experienced a severe reaction to the flu shot in the past.
• People with a moderate to severe illness with a fever. (It’s recommended they wait until symptoms lessen.)

Consult your doctor if you have any questions.

What Are Possible Side Effects From the Flu Shot?
The following side effects can begin immediately after the shot and last one to two days:

• Soreness, redness, or swelling on the site where the shot was given.
• A low fever.
• Aches.

When Should I Get a Flu Shot?
October to November is the best time to get a flu shot. If you missed getting a flu shot then, you may still be able to get one year round. Check with your doctor.

Why Do I Need it Every Year?
Since flu viruses change from year to year, a new flu vaccine is created each year to offer the most current protection. The previous year’s flu vaccine wasn’t created to combat the virus strains circulating this year, making it ineffective.