Friday, December 14, 2012

Seasonal Influenza (Flu)

Influenza is a serious disease that can lead to hospitalization and sometimes even death. Every flu season is different, and influenza infection can affect people differently. Even healthy people can get very sick from the flu and spread it to others.

The “seasonal flu season” in the United States can begin as early as October and last as late as May. During this time, flu viruses are circulating in the population.

An annual seasonal flu vaccine (either the flu shot or the nasal-spray flu vaccine) is the best way to reduce the chances that you will get seasonal flu and lessen the chance that you will spread it to others. When more people get vaccinated against the flu, less flu can spread through that community.

Almost everyone who is at least 6 months of age should get a flu vaccine this season. It’s especially important for some people to get vaccinated. Those people include the following:

People who are at high risk of developing serious complications like pneumonia if they get sick with the flu. This includes:
  • People who have certain medical conditions including asthma, diabetes, and chronic lung disease.
  • Pregnant women.
  • People 65 years and older
People who live with or care for others who are high risk of developing serious complications. This includes:
  • household contacts and caregivers of people with certain medical conditions including asthma, diabetes, and chronic lung disease.

Who Should Not Be Vaccinated
There are some people who should not get a flu vaccine without first consulting a physician. These include:
  • People who have a severe allergy to chicken eggs.
  • People who have had a severe reaction to an influenza vaccination.
  • People who developed Guillain-BarrĂ© syndrome (GBS) within 6 weeks of getting an influenza vaccine.
  • Children less than 6 months of age (influenza vaccine is not approved for this age group), and
  • People who have a moderate-to-severe illness with a fever (they should wait until they recover to get vaccinated.)
[Source for all of the above: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Key Facts About Seasonal Flu Vaccine]

Where can you get a flu shot?

Contact your primary care doctor's office or your local pharmacist to see if they offer flu shots.

Adult Immunization & Travel Clinic: AITC is a non-profit, fee-for-service clinic that is part of the San Francisco Department of Public Health. AITC is committed to providing convenient, knowledgeable, personalized, and cost-effective immunization services for travelers, students, new employees, immigrants, and other members of the community. Information is available at

HealthMap Vaccine Finder

Cold or Flu?
[From UCSF Medical Center Patient Education]

Treatment for the Flu
[From UCSF Medical Center Patient Education]

When to Call Your Doctor About the Flu
[From UCSF Medical Center Patient Education]