For Release:Oct. 26, 2010
Contact: Pamela Williams
Office of Communications
The Flu Ends with You
The Oklahoma State Department of Health reminds Oklahomans that flu season has started and influenza can be a very serious disease. It can spread quickly among family members, friends and co-workers, and it can hit hard, attacking even healthy people and sending children and adults to the hospital.
The first and most important step in protecting against the flu is to get a flu vaccine. Flu vaccine is now available at local county health departments throughout the state. Everyone 6 months of age and older should be vaccinated.
There are many misconceptions about flu vaccine. Here are a few common questions and the answers you need to know to protect yourself from the flu.
- Can the flu vaccine give you the flu? - No, a flu vaccine cannot cause flu illness. The influenza viruses contained in a flu shot are inactivated, or “killed”, which means they cannot cause infection. The most common side effect of seasonal flu shots in adults is soreness at the spot where a shot is given. Very rare symptoms may include fever, muscle pain and feelings of discomfort or weakness. Unlike the flu shot, nasal spray flu vaccine does contain live viruses, but these are weakened and cannot cause flu illness. Persons who receive the nasal spray vaccine may report mild reactions afterward, such as a runny nose or nasal congestion, sore throat, chills and tiredness. These side effects are generally mild and short-lasting. What’s important to remember is that a flu vaccination provides protection for yourself and it reduces the chance of you spreading the flu to family, friends and others around you, including children younger than 6 months of age who are too young to get vaccinated themselves, and those who are at high risk from complications of the flu but have not yet been vaccinated.
- What about people who get a flu vaccine and still get “flu-like” symptoms? – People may be exposed to one of the influenza viruses in the vaccine shortly before getting vaccinated or during the two-week period it takes the body to gain protection after getting vaccinated. This exposure may result in a person becoming ill with flu before protection from the vaccine takes effect. People also become ill from non-flu viruses that circulate during the flu season, which cause flu-like symptoms. Flu vaccine does not protect people from respiratory illness that is not caused by flu viruses. Or, a person may be exposed to an influenza virus that is very different from the viruses included in the vaccine. Finally, for some persons who have weakened immune systems, or the elderly, the flu vaccine may not provide all the protection needed. Even so, the flu vaccine can still help prevent complications from the flu. A high-dose flu vaccine available for those who are 65 and older is available at county health departments. This vaccine has four times more antigen than regular flu vaccine and provides more protection for older persons whose immune systems may be less responsive.
- Is this year’s flu vaccine safe, since it contains the H1N1 virus? - Every year, flu vaccine is updated to protect against the three flu viruses that are most likely to be in circulation. This year’s vaccine includes protection against the H1N1 virus as well as two other seasonal flu viruses. This “all in one” flu vaccine was made in the same way that flu vaccines have been made for decades, during which hundreds of millions of flu vaccines have been given safely. The risk of a flu shot causing serious harm, or death, is extremely small. However, a vaccine, like any medicine, may rarely cause serious problems, such as severe allergic reactions. Almost all people who get influenza vaccine have no serious problems from it.
- Is the “stomach flu” really the flu? – No, many people use the term “stomach flu” to describe illnesses with nausea, vomiting or diarrhea. Influenza is a respiratory disease, not a stomach or intestinal disease.
This year there is a $25 fee for flu vaccinations at county health departments. However, many persons, including seniors, may qualify for a fee waiver, including those who are on Medicare and do not belong to an HMO. Persons who are on SoonerCare and children who qualify for the Vaccines for Children program are eligible for fee waivers as well as others who may be eligible based on income. In addition, persons enrolled in HealthChoice and the Oklahoma Public Employees – Health and Welfare (OPEHW) insurance programs can present their insurance cards at county health departments and the fee for the vaccine will be roster billed back to HealthChoice and OPEHW. If you have questions about whether you qualify for a fee waiver, call your local county health department.
Getting the flu vaccine now will provide the protection you need throughout the flu season and it will help protect those around you as well. Visit the Oklahoma State Department of Health Web site at www.health.ok.gov, as well as www.flu.gov and www.cdc.gov/flu for updates throughout the flu season.