Influenza is a serious disease that can lead to hospitalization and sometimes even death. Every flu season is different, and influenza infection can affect people differently. Even healthy people can get very sick from the flu and spread it to others. The estimates of flu-associated deaths in the United States range from a low of about 3,000 to a high of about 49,000 deaths. About 90 percent of deaths occur in people 65 years and older. The “seasonal flu season” in the United States can begin as early as October and last as late as May.
During the flu season, flu viruses are circulating in the population. An annual seasonal flu vaccine (either the flu shot or the nasal-spray flu vaccine) is the best way to reduce the chances that you will get seasonal flu and lessen the chance that you will spread it to others. When more people get vaccinated against the flu, less flu can spread through that community.
Flu vaccines (the flu shot or the nasal-spray) cause antibodies to develop in the body about two weeks after vaccination. These antibodies provide protection against flu infection with the viruses that are in the vaccine. And remember: You cannot get the flu from the flu vaccine.
The seasonal flu vaccine protects against three influenza viruses that will be most common during the upcoming season. Three kinds of influenza viruses commonly circulate among people today: influenza B viruses, influenza A (H1N1) viruses, and influenza A (H3N2) viruses. Each year, one flu virus of each kind is used to produce seasonal influenza vaccine.
For more information on influenza and the influenza vaccine, visit the Minnesota Department of Health Influenza website, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Influenza website, or the Flu.Gov website. Or download the brochure Take 3 Steps to Fight the Flu (.pdf).
Many insurance companies will pay for flu shots, so check to see if it is covered. To find a flu clinic near you, visit the Minnesota Department of Health's Flu Shot Clinic finder.