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Flu FAQ's

29 October 2017

What sort of flu season is expected this year?

It’s not possible to predict what this flu season will be like. Flu seasons are unpredictable in a number of ways. While flu spreads every year, the timing, severity, and length of the season varies from one year to another. Over a period of 31 seasons between 1976 and 2007, estimates of flu-associated deaths in the United States range from a low of about 3,000 to a high of about 49,000 people. During recent flu seasons, between 80% and 90% of flu related deaths have occurred in people 65 years and older.

Will new flu viruses circulate this season?

Flu viruses are constantly changing so it's not unusual for new flu viruses to appear each year.

Will the United States have a flu epidemic?

The United States experiences epidemics of seasonal flu each year. This time of year is called "flu season." In the United States, flu season occurs in the winter; flu outbreaks can happen as early as October and can last as late as May. CDC says the flu season begins when certain key flu indicators (for example, levels of influenza-like illness (ILI), hospitalization and deaths) rise and remain elevated for a number of consecutive weeks. Usually ILI increases first, followed by an increase in hospitalizations, which is then followed by increases in flu-associated deaths.

When will flu activity begin and when will it peak?

The timing of flu is very unpredictable and can vary in different parts of the country and from season to season. Most seasonal flu activity typically occurs between October and May. Flu activity most commonly peaks in the United States between December and February.

What should I do to protect myself from flu this season?

CDC recommends a yearly influenza vaccine for everyone 6 months of age and older as the first and most important step in protecting against this serious disease. People should begin getting vaccinated soon after flu vaccine becomes available, if possible by October, to ensure that as many people as possible are protected before flu season begins. However, as long as flu viruses are circulating in the community, it’s not too late to get vaccinated. In addition to getting a seasonal flu vaccine if you have not already gotten vaccinated, you can take precautions like staying away from sick people and washing your hands to reduce the spread of germs. If you are sick with flu, stay home from work or school to prevent spreading flu to others.

Are any of the available flu vaccines recommended over others?

The nasal spray flu vaccine (live attenuated influenza vaccine or LAIV) should NOT be used during 2017-2018.There is no preference for one vaccine over another among the recommended, approved injectable influenza vaccines.

People at High Risk for Developing Flu-Related Complications

What should I do if I get sick with the flu?

Antiviral drugs are prescription drugs that can be used to treat flu illness. People at high risk of serious flu complications (such as children younger than 2 years, adults 65 and older, pregnant women, and people with certain medical conditions) and people who are very sick with flu (such as those hospitalized because of flu) should get antiviral drugs. Some other people can be treated with antivirals at their health care professional’s discretion. Treating high risk people or people who are very sick with flu with antiviral drugs is very important. Studies show that prompt treatment with antiviral drugs can prevent serious flu complications. Prompt treatment can mean the difference between having a milder illness versus very serious illness that could result in a hospital stay.

What antiviral drugs are recommended this flu season and when should they be started?

Treatment with antivirals works best when begun within 48 hours of getting sick, but can still be beneficial when given later in the course of illness, especially in high risk patients. Antiviral drugs are effective across all age-and risk groups. Studies show that antiviral drugs are under-prescribed for people who are at high risk of complications who get flu. There are three FDA-approved influenza antiviral drugs recommended by CDC this season to treat influenza. The brand names for these are Tamiflu® (generic name oseltamivir), Relenza® (generic name zanamivir), and Rapivab® (generic name peramivir). Tamiflu® is available as a pill or liquid and Relenza® is a powder that is inhaled. (Relenza® is not for people with breathing problems like asthma or COPD, for example.) Rapivab® is given intravenously by a health care provider. Generic Oseltamivir is now available.

What should I do to protect my loved ones from flu?

CDC recommends that people who are at high risk for serious flu complications who get the flu be treated with influenza antiviral drugs as quickly as possible. People who are not at high risk for serious flu complications who get the flu may be treated with influenza antiviral drugs at their doctor’s discretion. Children between 6 months and 8 years of age may need two doses of flu vaccine to be fully protected from flu. The two doses should be given at least 4 weeks apart. Your child’s doctor or other health care professional can tell you whether your child needs two doses. If your child does need two doses of vaccine to be fully protected, it is a good idea to begin the vaccination process sooner rather than later

Children younger than 6 months are at higher risk of serious flu complications, but are too young to get a flu vaccine. Because of this, safeguarding them from flu is especially important. If you live with or care for an infant younger than 6 months of age, you should get a flu vaccine to help protect them from flu.

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