Your 2017-18 flu season questions answered

Common influenza vaccine myths busted

By Emilee Speck - Digital journalist
Getty Images

People walk past a sign advertising flu shots during a morning snow storm on December 17, 2013 in New York City.

ORLANDO, Fla. - The 2017-2018 flu season is upon us. Because different strains of influenza change over time, every season is different. It's hard to predict exactly what the U.S. can expect this year, but here are some of the most common influenza questions answered and changes in vaccines from last season.

How bad will the 2017-2018 flu season be?

Experts say that the severe flu season happening in Australia now, which begins in July, could be an indicator of what the U.S. will experience.

“There is every reason to expect that we could have a severe flu season this year,” said Dr. Robert Atmar,  infectious diseases professor at Baylor College of Medicine. “It’s always hard to predict what is going to happen, but people should be prepared.”

What's new this year?

The nasal spray vaccine should not be used during the 2017-2018 season, according to the CDC. People who normally get the nasal spray should get an injection.

When should I get the vaccine?

After getting the vaccine, it will take about two weeks for antibodies to develop in your body that will protect against the flu. It’s best to get the vaccine before it's already spreading. The Center for Disease Control recommends getting the vaccine by the end of October, or before flu season begins. Peak flu season usually ends by February.

Who should get vaccinated?

Anyone older than six months old can receive a flu shot. Children and older people are encouraged to get the shot in particular. Studies show that pregnant women who get vaccinated can reduce their baby’s risk of flu by 50 percent.

Infants younger than six months should not be vaccinated, but their family members can which will help prevent them from becoming sick.

The more people who get vaccinated, the lower the risk of catching influenza.

I got the vaccine last year. Do I need it again?

Yes. The body’s response to the flu vaccinations declines over time, and flu viruses are changing all the time. A new vaccine every year will be updated to handle the changing viruses.

Can I still get the flu if I’m vaccinated?

There is a possibility, but if you get the flu, the vaccine will help minimize some of the symptoms. According to the CDC, vaccines are effective in preventing flu-associated hospitalizations.

No vaccines are 100 percent effective, but the flu shot will prevent very severe complications from influenza, including pneumonia and death.

Can you get the flu from the flu shot?

No. The vaccine is made from an inactivated virus that cannot transmit infection. Most people who are vaccinated have no reaction at all. About 25 percent of people who receive the shot experience some redness and swelling near the injection side. The risk of an allergic reaction is less than one in four million.

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