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Frequently Asked Questions about the Flu Shot

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Frequently Asked Questions about the Flu Shot

Every year, many Americans get sick from the flu. The actual number varies from year to year, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that between 5% and 20% of U.S. residents get the flu every year.

Take the time to educate yourself about the flu and flu shots. That way, you'll be better equipped to protect yourself and the people around you from the flu.

What is the flu?

The flu is a contagious respiratory illness. It's caused by the influenza virus that infects your nose, throat and lungs. Symptoms can include fever, chills, cough, muscle or body aches and feeling tired.

Who gets the flu?

Anyone can get the influenza virus, commonly referred to as "the flu." But people 65 and older and those with long-term illnesses or weakened immune systems are most at risk for serious complications from the flu.

Is the flu serious?

The flu can range from mild to severe. But keep in mind that the CDC reports that more than 200,000 Americans are hospitalized for flu-related complications every year. The highest rates of hospitalization tend to be among people 65 and older.

How does the flu spread?

Flu viruses are spread mainly when people with the flu cough, sneeze or talk. People nearby can then become infected by mouth, eyes or nose, or by breathing the virus into their lungs. Less often, a person might get the flu by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, eyes or nose. It's also important to keep in mind that an infected person can spread the flu for up to five days before developing symptoms.

Can a flu shot give you the flu?

Inactivated influenza vaccine contains noninfectious killed viruses and cannot cause the flu; so you cannot get the flu from a flu shot.

Why should I get a flu shot?

A yearly flu shot is one of the best ways to reduce your chances of getting the flu. It's important to get your flu shot early before it starts spreading in your community. Getting your flu shot early may help protect the people around you from getting sick. So your flu shot helps not only you, but also your friends, family, neighbors and acquaintances.

When should I get a flu shot?

You should get a flu shot every year. It's best to get your flu shot as soon as the vaccine becomes available, and ideally by October each year. That will give your body time to start developing the protective antibodies against the flu before it starts spreading in your community. However, getting vaccinated later in the season can still help protect you and your loved ones.

Where can I get my flu shot?

Talk with your doctor about getting your yearly flu shot. In addition to your doctor's office, you can also get a flu shot at participating pharmacies in your area.

Created on 07/21/2014


  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2013-2014.

Copyright © UnitedHealthcare.

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