A variety of illnesses are often called “the flu.” Unfortunately, this generalization often misrepresents the potential severity of the illness caused by influenza virus. Influenza infects the upper respiratory tract and can strike so suddenly that people remember the hour they began to feel ill.
Common symptoms of influenza may include:
- High fever
- Muscle aches
- Runny nose
Symptoms typically last for a few days, but can lead to complications, such as pneumonia, encephalitis (inflammation of the brain), or heart disease. Sometimes, particularly in the elderly, bacterial infections occur shortly after the viral infection, so people feel like they are getting better and then get sick again. Like influenza infections, bacterial infections that follow influenza can be severe leading to hospitalization and death.
One of the best ways to protect yourself and your family from influenza is through vaccination. It is best to be immunized before influenza spreads through your community because it takes about two weeks after vaccination to be protected. The influenza vaccine given as an injection is the preferred version this year. The nasal spray influenza vaccine is not recommended because of ineffectiveness the last few seasons.
Read more about the decision by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) not to recommend the nasal spray version, and watch Dr. Paul Offit, VEC director, discuss the developments.
Materials to read
This brief video examines the misconception that the influenza vaccine can cause influenza.
This brief video explains why a yearly dose of the influenza vaccine is recommended.
This video talks about potential allergens in vaccines and precautions you can take to protect against allergic reactions.