Flu is here, and a flu shot is the best way to stay healthy, plus protect those around you.
UHS is out of flu vaccine, but you can check other local pharmacies for availability.
About flu vaccination:
Why be vaccinated? Annual vaccination against seasonal flu may help to prevent illness, severity of flu and serious complications caused by flu. People who receive the vaccine miss less class or work due to illness. Also, the vaccine helps prevent others from getting the flu from you.
How effective is flu vaccine? When there is a good match between vaccine and circulating viruses, flu vaccine is at least 70% effective in preventing illness in healthy children and adults. Flu vaccine can also reduce the severity of symptoms if you get the flu. Flu vaccine affects only the influenza virus and has no effect on colds. For more on the flu vaccine this year, see the CDC Vaccine Information Statement (PDF).
The best time to get vaccinated is as soon as it is available, because protection develops about 2 weeks after vaccination. Flu is typically seasonal, appearing December through March in Michigan. A flu shot is needed each year before the winter season because flu strains vary from year to year.
Who should be vaccinated? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone ages 6 months and older get vaccinated against the flu. Those at higher risk of flu complications, or those who live with or care for people at high risk for developing flu complications, should definitely get vaccinated. See the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for recommendations.
Who should NOT be vaccinated?
- People who have a life-threatening allergy to eggs or other vaccine ingredients
- People with life-threatening reaction to any previous vaccine
- People who have had Guillain-Barre syndrome from the flu vaccine
Side effects: Minor side effects include soreness, redness and swelling at site of injection; mild fever, mild headache/muscle ache, nausea.
The 1976 swine flu vaccine was associated with an increased risk of Guillain-Barre syndrome. Subsequent flu vaccines have not had causal relationships demonstrated. If risk exists, it would be less than one to two cases per million vaccines, which is much less than the risk of flu complications.
What is flu? Flu (short for influenza) is a viral infection of the nose, throat, bronchial tubes and lungs. It is much like a chest cold but usually more severe. There are two main types of virus: A and B. Each type includes many different strains which tend to change each year.
Transmission: Influenza is highly contagious and is easily transmitted through contact with droplets from the nose and throat of an infected person during coughing and sneezing. Flu may be transmitted one day before symptoms develop and up to five days after you get sick.
- Rapid onset of symptoms
- Fever (greater than 100.4° or 38° C)
- Headache and/or body aches
- Tiredness (can be extreme)
- Sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Diarrhea and vomiting (more common among children than adults)
Acute symptoms usually last 3-5 days, although a cough may linger for up to three weeks.
Complications are rare in young, otherwise healthy adults, but the elderly and persons with underlying health problems are at increased risk for complications such as pneumonia.
What to do if you have flu:
Treatment usually consists of resting, drinking fluids and taking non-prescription medicine.
For fever and pain, take Tylenol (acetaminophen), two 325 mg tablets every 4 hours for adults. (People under age 19 should not take aspirin due to the association with Reye's syndrome.)
In order to protect others, please stay at home until at least 24 hours after you no longer have a fever or signs of a fever (temperature over 100° F or 38° C, have chills, feel very warm, have a flushed appearance, or are sweating). This should be determined without the use of fever-reducing medications (any medicine that contains ibuprofen or acetaminophen). Self-isolation will help reduce the spread of germs to others. Ask a Residence Hall Advisor, family member, roommate or friend to check on you and to bring you food and supplies if needed.
For cough relief, take Robitussin DM.
For multiple symptoms, take NyQuil or DayQuil. Generic medicines are available. Follow package directions.
Antibiotics are ineffective against flu because it is a viral (not bacterial) infection. However, antibiotics may be used to treat flu complications, such as pneumonia or middle ear infection.
Antiviral drugs (e.g. Tamiflu) are available to high-risk patients by prescription and may decrease severity and duration of illness if taken within 48 hours of symptoms onset. To consider antiviral treatment, call for Nurse Advice by Phone as soon as possible after symptoms begin.
If you are ill and need to miss classes and/or work for several days, be sure to contact your instructors and/or employer, and notify your academic adviser. If this is not possible, students may contact the Dean of Students Office for assistance (phone 734-764-7420; email email@example.com).
Call for medical advice if you experience these complications:
- Cough that is severe and persistent or produces bloody phlegm
- Sore throat that lasts longer than 10 days
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
In adults, emergency warning signs that need urgent medical attention include:
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
- Sudden dizziness
- Severe or persistent vomiting
In children, emergency warning signs that need urgent medical attention include:
- Fast breathing or trouble breathing
- Bluish skin color
- Not drinking enough fluids
- Not waking up or not interacting
- Being so irritable that the child does not want to be held
- Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough
- Fever with a rash
Does past flu infection make a person immune? Generally, no. The viruses that cause flu change frequently, so people who have been infected or had a flu shot in previous years may become infected with a new strain. Because of this, and because any immunity produced by the flu shot will decrease in the year after vaccination, people should get vaccinated every year in order to be protected.
For more information:
- Nurse Advice by Phone is available day or night, which may save a trip to UHS or the ER.
- How to Get Health Care at UHS -- options are available for non-urgent and urgent concerns
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website on flu
- The Immunization Action Coalition Vaccine Information Statements are available in multiple languages (use Adobe Acrobat Reader to view these PDF files).