The flu kills more than 35,000 people in the United States alone in an average year. Most of these deaths could be prevented with a simple vaccine. Below are some statistics that may surprise you.
Flu Statistics: What are Your Odds of Getting the Flu?
How many people get the flu each year? How much does the flu cost us? How well does the flu vaccine work? Here’s a rundown of some important flu statistics based on the best available data:
• Percentage of the U.S. population that will get the flu, on average, each year: Between 5% and 20%.
• Number of Americans hospitalized each year because of flu complications: 200,000 on average.
• The number of people who die each year from flu-related causes in the U.S.: varies with a range of 3,000-49,000 people yearly.
• Number of flu vaccine doses estimated to be available in the U.S. for the 2010-2011 flu season: 160 million to 165 million.
• The 2010-2011 flu vaccine will protect against three different flu viruses: an H3N2 virus, an influenza B virus, and the H1N1 virus that caused so much illness last season
• It takes about two weeks after vaccination for an adult to develop antibodies against the flu.
• One of the national health objectives for 2010 includes 90% of people over age 65 and all nursing home residents vaccinated.
• The cost of the flu shots varies by location, but usually ranges from $5-$30. Many health Insurance plans cover Flu Shots as part of a wellness plan.
What is Influenza (also called the flu)?
The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death. The best way to prevent the flu is by getting a flu vaccine
Symptoms of Flu
People who have the flu often feel some or all of these symptoms:
• Fever* or feeling feverish/chills
• Important to note not everyone with the flu will have a fever
• Sore throat
• Runny or stuffy nose
• Muscle or body aches
• Fatigue (very tired)
• Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults.
How Flu Spreads
It is a highly contagious disease, spread mostly by direct person- to- person contact. "With the flu, coughing — even more than sneezing — is the most effective method of transmission," says Influenza Program Officer Dominick Lacusion of the National Institute of Health.
Most experts believe that flu viruses spread mainly by droplets made when people with the flu cough, sneeze or talk. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby. Less often, a person might also get the flu by touching a surface or object that has the flu virus on it and then touching their own mouth, eyes or nose.
Preventing Seasonal Flu: Get Vaccinated
The single best way to prevent the flu is to get a flu vaccine
each season. There are two types of flu vaccines:
• The "flu shot"— an inactivated vaccine (containing killed virus) that is given with a needle. The seasonal flu shot is approved for use in people 6 months of age and older, including healthy people, people with chronic medical conditions and pregnant women.
• The Nasal-spray flu vaccine — a vaccine made with live, weakened flu viruses that does not cause the flu (sometimes called LAIV for Live Attenuated Influenza Vaccine). LAIV is approved for use in healthy* people ages 2-49 who are not pregnant. About two weeks after vaccination, antibodies develop that protect against influenza virus infection. Flu vaccines will not protect against flu-like illnesses.
The seasonal flu vaccine protects against the three influenza viruses that research suggests will be most common for this season, 2010-2011. This shot will protect against 2009 H1N1 and two other influenza viruses (an H3N2 virus and an influenza B virus).
When to Get Vaccinated Against Seasonal Flu
Yearly flu vaccination should begin in September, or as soon as vaccine is available, and continue throughout the flu season, which can last as late as May. This is because the timing and duration of flu seasons vary. While flu season can begin as early as October, most of the time seasonal flu activity peaks in January or later.
Who Should Get Vaccinated?
On February 24, 2010 vaccine experts and the CEC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices voted for a "universal" flu vaccination for the U.S. to expand protection against the flu to more people. Anyone age 6 months and older should get a flu vaccine each year, starting with the 2010-2011 influenza season.
Who is at High Risk for Developing Flu-Related Complications?
• Children younger than 5 years old, but especially children younger than 2
• Adults 65 years of age and older
• Pregnant women
• Also late flu season, American Indians and Alaskan Natives seemed to be at higher risk of flu complications
• People who have medical conditions including:
Who Else Should Get Vaccinated?
- Asthma (even if controlled or mild)
- Neurological and neuro developmental conditions including disorders of the brain, spinal cord, peripheral nerve, and muscle such as cerebral palsy, epilepsy (seizure disorder) stroke, intellectual disability moderate to severe developmental delay, muscular dystrophy, or spinal cord injury.
- Chronic lung disease (such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)
- Heart disease (such as congenital heart disease, congestive heart failure and coronary artery disease
- Blood disorders
- Endocrine disorders (such as diabetes mellitus)
- Kidney disorders
- Liver disorders
- Metabolic Disorders
- Weakened immune system due to disease or medication (such as HIV or AIDS, cancer, or those on chronic steroids)
- People younger than 19 years of age who are receiving long-term aspirin
- People who are morbidly obese (Body Mass Index of 40 or greater)
Other people for whom vaccination is especially important are:
• People who live in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities
• Health care workers
• Household contacts of persons at high risk for complications from flu
• Household contacts and care givers of children younger than 5 years of age, with particular emphasis on vaccinating contacts of children younger then 6 months of age (children younger than 6 months are at highest risk of flu-related complications but are too young to get vaccinated)
Use of the Nasal Spray Seasonal Flu Vaccine
Vaccination with the nasal spray flu vaccine is an option for healthy people ages 2-49 who are not pregnant. Even people who live with or care for those in a high-risk group can get the nasal spray flu vaccine as long as they are healthy themselves and not pregnant.
Who Should Not Be Vaccinated Against Seasonal Flu?
• People who have a severe allergy to chicken eggs
• People who have had a severe reaction to an influenza vaccination in the past
• People who developed Guillian-Barre syndrome within six months of getting an influenza vaccine previously
• Children younger than 6 months of age (influenza vaccine not approved for use in this age group)
• People with a moderate or severe illness with a fever should wait to get vaccinated until their symptoms lessen
For questions about whether you should get a flu vaccine, consult your health care provider.