It creeps into Florida this time of the year, just as surely as the ghouls and goblins of Halloween, except that it is much scarier because it can be deadly. It is flu season, which typically runs from October to April.
Although it’s hard to tell how many people die each year from flu-related illnesses—it varies from year to year–the Centers for Disease Control estimates that during a bad year, the death toll nationwide can run into the tens of thousands.
“The best way to prevent influenza is to get vaccinated,” says Dr. Dorothy Contiguglia-Akcan, a family medicine physician at FIU Health, “but some people don’t do it because they don’t know the facts.”
Here are 5 things Dr. Contiguglia-Akcan says we all need to know about the flu and flu shots.
1. Who should be vaccinated?
Everyone 6 months or older except people for whom it is not medically advised. Check with your primary care provider if you think you have a condition that prevents you from getting a flu shot.
2. When should I get the flu shot?
It is best to be vaccinated just before or as soon as flu season starts, but it is never too late as long as you do it during flu season.
3. Is the flu shot safe?
The flu shot is safe for most people. The primary concern is for the very few people who might have a serious allergic reaction to the vaccine. The most common side effects from the vaccine may be some swelling or pain at the injection site. Rarely, some people develop fever and muscle pain.
4. Can I get the flu from the flu shot?
No. Those people who develop fever and muscle pain may feel like they have the flu, but unlike the flu, these symptoms will only last 1-2 days and are not associated with severe or life-threatening complications.
5. Why should we be vaccinated?
Some people, especially the very young, very old, very sick and pregnant, can get dangerously sick — even die — from this virus so it is important to vaccinate them. Most healthy people who catch the flu will recover fully without any lasting problems, but it is also important to vaccinate them, so they cannot catch the virus and spread it to others who are at high risk of severe illness. Like many vaccines, flu vaccination is about protecting your community as much as it is about protecting yourself.
Flu shots are available on campus:
FIU Health for faculty, staff and the general public. Call 305-348-DOCS (305-348-3627).
Student Health Services for students. Call 305-348-2401 (MMC) or 305-919-5620 (BBC).