Answers to your questions about flu vaccination and prevention

Bottom line: it's not too late to get your vaccination

We reported our first case of influenza this season to the public health department in Oct. 2013 and have since hospitalized hundreds of patients with suspected or confirmed flu.  Flu

Many of those patients are young and otherwise healthy, and some were transferred to U-M from other hospitals because their flu was so severe. Most cases are the H1N1 strain of flu.

Estimated flu activity level in Michigan has been upgraded to ‘widespread’ activity to reflect recent increases in lab-confirmed influenza cases in the southwest and central regions of Michigan.

Answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about the flu:

Q: What are the symptoms of H1N1? Are the symptoms for the H1N1 strain different than a seasonal flu?
A: The symptoms of H1N1 are not different from other strains of influenza. These include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue.  The onset of symptoms is frequently rapid. Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea as well as respiratory symptoms without a fever. 

Q: Will a regular seasonal flu vaccine protect me from H1N1?
A: Yes, the H1N1 strain was included in this year’s vaccine formulation.

Q: Will getting a vaccination now be as effective? Is it too late to be vaccinated?
A: It is definitely not too late! The vaccine usually takes about 10-14 days for immunization to be effective so getting vaccinated now may protect you further on in the season.  Although flu season started early this year, it is expected to last into March.

Q: Do we expect to see the outbreak get worse?
A: In Michigan we have been upgraded to the ‘widespread’ level which is the highest level of flu activity.  However, flu prevalence has not yet “peaked” and we do expect to see a further increase in cases.

Q: Which age group is most at risk for H1N1?
A: H1N1 has been seen disproportionately in young and middle aged adults but the elderly and some individuals with chronic diseases are also at greater risk for severe disease. People considered at high-risk for developing flu-related complications are children younger than 5, adults 65 years of age and older, and pregnant women.

Q: Are there any known risks or complications for vaccinating children?
A: The side effects associated with getting vaccines are almost always mild (such as redness and swelling where the shot was given) and go away within a few days. If your child experiences a reaction at the injection site, you can use a cool, wet cloth to reduce redness, soreness and swelling.

Serious side effects following vaccination, such as severe allergic reaction, are very rare and doctors and clinic staff are trained to deal with them.

The inactivated flu vaccine (injection) is for children greater than 6 months of age.  Children 6 months through 8 years of age should get two doses the first year they get vaccinated.

FacebookFluQ: Does getting the vaccine guarantee that I won’t get the flu?
A: A flu vaccination is not 100 percent effective for everyone, but those few people who still get the flu after immunization have a much greater chance of avoiding complications and hospitalization.

Q: I was vaccinated in 2009 during the last outbreak of H1N1. Do I need to be vaccinated again this year
A: Yes; flu virus strains differ each year and protection from existing vaccination wanes.

Q: What if I am allergic to the flu vaccine?
A: If you feel you may be allergic to the shot, you should discuss this with your health care provider as most individuals can safely get the vaccine.

Q: Can pregnant women be vaccinated?
A: As one of the most high-risk populations for contracting H1N1, pregnant women should definitely be vaccinated. In this year and previous years, severe illness has been seen in pregnant women.  It is safe to be vaccinated during any trimester. In addition, passing antibodies to the fetus may provide some protection to the newborn after birth.

Q: What should I do if I develop flu-like symptoms?
A: Antiviral medication is indicted for certain persons with chronic conditions, so please call your health care provider to ask for advice.  Stay home from school or work if you are feeling sick. Cover your cough and sneezes by either directing them into a tissue or your elbow. Always wash or disinfect your hands thoroughly after handling dirty tissues.

Take the next step:

  • Help share this message on Facebook and Twitter.
  • There’s still plenty of flu vaccine available, and UMHS patients may contact their clinics and offices to arrange for vaccination. Washtenaw County residents can be vaccinated at the county Public Health department for $20, and can provide a receipt for private insurance or bill Medicaid (but not Medicare Part B).
  • Find a vaccination location near you by visiting www.flu.gov.

    new_logos_180x1806For more than 160 years, the University of Michigan Health System has been a national leader in advanced patient care, innovative research to improve human health and comprehensive education of physicians and medical scientists. The three U-M hospitals have been recognized numerous times for excellence in patient care, including a #1 ranking in Michigan and national rankings in many specialty areas by U.S. News & World Report.