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Inside IBH: Know Your Flu Facts

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This year’s influenza season is the worst in years, and it’s not over yet. The Department of Health and Human Services’ special website – – is a go-to resource on the topic. You can follow @CDCFlu and @FluGov on Twitter for breaking news on the outbreak as well.

Here’s a quick FAQ about the flu from Integrated Behavioral Health, Lehigh’s Employee Assistance Plan provider.

Can a flu vaccine give you the flu?

No. The flu vaccine cannot cause flu illness. The viruses in the vaccine are either killed (flu shot) or weakened (nasal spray vaccine), which means they cannot cause infection.

Are the stomach flu and influenza the same thing?

No. Stomach flu is a popular term for stomach or intestinal disease, whereas the flu is a respiratory (lung) disease. People who have the flu often feel some or all of these symptoms: fever, headache, extreme tiredness, dry cough, sore throat, and muscle aches. Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea also can occur with flu, but are more common in children than adults.

Is getting a flu vaccine in December or later too late?

No. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that people get vaccinated as soon as vaccine becomes available and that vaccination continue into December, January, and beyond. Influenza activity usually peaks in February most years, but disease can occur as late as May.

Since flu viruses change constantly, are the same flu vaccines are produced each year?

No. The viruses in the vaccine change each year based on worldwide monitoring of influenza viruses.

Does washing your hands help protect against the flu?

Yes. CDC recommends a flu vaccine as the first and most important step in protecting against the flu. However, preventative actions like covering your cough and washing your hands often are important everyday steps that can help stop the spread of germs.

How many strains of flu does flu vaccine protect against?

While there are many different flu viruses, the flu vaccine protects against the three viruses that research suggests will be most common.

Is the flu is most typically spread through coughs and/or sneezes?

Yes. Flu virus is mainly spread through droplets from coughs and sneezes.

Is the flu is a serious illness?

Yes.  Flu is a serious contagious disease that causes illness and related hospitalizations and deaths every year in the United States. Flu seasons can vary in severity. Over a period of 30 years, between 1976 and 2006, estimates of flu-associated deaths range from a low of about 3, 000 to a high of about 49,000 people, according to the CDC.

Is the flu vaccine available only as a shot?

No. Flu vaccine is also available as a nasal spray. The nasal spray flu vaccine is an option for healthy people 2-49 years of age who are not pregnant. Healthy indicates people who do not have an underlying medical condition that predisposes them to influenza complications.

Can you spread the flu to others before you have symptoms?

Yes. Most healthy adults may be able to infect others beginning 1 day before symptoms develop and up to 5-7 days after becoming sick. That means that you may be able to pass on the flu to someone else before you know you are sick, as well as while you are sick.

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