VNAA - Visiting Nurse Associations of America

Seasonal Influenza (flu)

What Do I Need to Know for the 2012-2013 Flu Season?

It is still early to tell exactly what we will see this year, but there are ways you can prepare now. For example, the CDC recommends that everyone 6 months and older should get the flu shot. You can contact your local nonprofit home healthcare and hospice agency in the fall to get your shot. Learn other things you should know about this season, click here.

What is the Flu?

Influenza (flu) is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death. People who have the flu often experience some or all of the following symptoms: fever (note: not everyone with flu will have a fever) or feeling feverish/chills, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches and fatigue. Some people may have vomiting or diarrhea though this is more common in children than adults.

How Do I Get the Flu?

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It is most commonly transmitted through the air, it can survive on household surfaces, too, and may spread when a person touches a surface, like a toy, with the virus on it then touches their mouth or nose. Typically, children, older adults and people with specific health conditions are at high risk to contract the flu.

When Is the Flu Most Common?

It is usually prominent when the weather begins to get colder. The typical "flu season" is from October-May, but can vary. Outbreak of the flu, length and severity fluctuate depending upon the seasonal patterns. In temperate climate zones, flu season will typically begin in the late fall and peak in mid- to late winter. And in tropical zones, flu seasons appear to be less pronounced, with year-round isolation of the virus.

Who Should Get the Flu Vaccine?

According to the CDC, everyone six months and older should get a flu vaccine each year. This recommendation has been in place when CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) voted for "universal" flu vaccination in the U.S. to expand protection against the flu to more people. While everyone should get a flu vaccine each flu season, it's especially important that certain people get vaccinated either because they are at high risk of having serious flurelated complications or because they live with or care for people at high risk for developing flurelated complications.

  • Pregnant women
  • Children younger than five, but especially children younger than two years old
  • People 50 years of age and older
  • People of any age with certain chronic medical conditions
  • People who live in nursing homes and other longterm care facilities
  • People who live with or care for those at high risk for complications from flu, including: Healthcare workers
  • Household contacts of persons at high risk for complications from the flu
  • Household contacts and out of home caregivers of children less than six months of age (these children are too young to be vaccinated)


View recommended influenza vaccines for the U.S. 2012-2012 season.

Flu-related question? Email: [email protected].

Is it the Flu or a Cold

Both cold and flu are respiratory illnesses, but they are caused by different viruses. Both cold and flu may cause fever, runny or stuffy nose, and cough, so it can sometimes be hard to tell the difference. In general, symptoms tend to be more severe with the flu.

Is it the flu?

  • Sudden onset of illness
  • High fever
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Achy head
  • Achy muscles
  • Chills

Is it a cold?

  • Slow onset of illness
  • Low or no fever
  • Mild fatigue
  • Mild or no headache
  • No achy muscles
  • No chills

Flu Facts and Misconceptions

  • There are many different viruses that can cause the flu. This year's (2011-2012) flu vaccine is designed to protect against H1N1 and two other viruses that research indicates will cause the most illness during this flu season.
  • The viruses in the flu shot are either killed (inactivated) or weakened, so you cannot get the flu from a flu vaccine.
  • Flu season usually occurs from November to March, so it's ideal to get your family vaccinated early before flu season peaks.
  • Some people believe thimerosal, a preservative in some vaccines, may be related to developmental problems in children. In 2004, the Institute of Medicine published a report concluding that, based on many scientific studies, there is no evidence of such relationship.
  • The seasonal flu shot has been given to millions of pregnant women over many years. Flu shots have not been shown to cause harm to pregnant women or their babies, according to the CDC.
  • According to the CDC, good health habits can help stop the spread of germs and prevent respiratory illnesses like the flu.
  • According to the CDC, most experts believe that flu viruses spread mainly by droplets that are made when people with flu cough, sneeze or talk, and then land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby. Less often, a person might also get flu by touching a surface or object contaminated with the flu virus and then touching their own mouth, eyes or nose.
  • It can take up to two weeks for protection to develop after the flu vaccination. That's why it is so important to get vaccinated as soon as it is available in your community - so you are protected in time for the peak of flu season. Learn prevent steps at

Flu Prevention Tips

According to the CDC, there are several steps you can take to help prevent the spread of the flu virus.

  • Get the flu vaccine: getting vaccinated is the first step to help prevent the flu. Earlier this year, CDC expanded its seasonal flu vaccine recommendations to include everyone 6 months and older.
  • Do the elbow cough: cough into elbows, not hands, where they are most likely to spread bacteria and viruses through touch.
  • Wash your hands: often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hand rubs are also effective.
  • Try to avoid contact with sick people.
  • Use disinfecting wipes on frequently touched surfaces.
  • If you are sick with flu-like illness: stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities. (Your fever should be gone without the use of fever-reducing medicine.)

Downloadable and Printable Handouts and Resources

Below are resources specifically to increase your knowledge on this topic to download, print and provide to patients, caretakers, family members, etc., as handouts.

2012-2013 materials will be posted as soon as they are available.

Clinicians and Providers - order free flu posters and fliers for your offices/companies from the CDC, click here.

Pregnant Women and Flu

Flu is more likely to cause severe illness in pregnant women than in women who are not pregnant. Changes in the immune system, heart, and lungs during pregnancy make pregnant women more prone to severe illness from flu as well as hospitalizations and even death. They also have a greater chance for problems for their unborn baby, including premature labor and delivery. Learn more...

Children and the Flu, and the Flu Vaccines

There are two types of seasonal influenza vaccines for children: the trivalent inactivated vaccine (TIV) (the flu shot) and the live attenuated vaccine (nasal spray). Protect your children, view a variety of resources available on the CDC's Website, click here.

Adult Immunization Resources for Providers

This page provides information, resources, and tools to help support clinicians, including community vaccinators, in delivering and billing Medicare for influenza, pneumococcal, and hepatitis B vaccinations. Click here for more information.

Other Flu Prevention Tips and Resources:

Say "Boo!" to the Flu
Families Fighting Flu, Visiting Nurse Associations of America and The Clorox Company teamed up for the Say "Boo!" to the Flu program, a national campaign to increase the number of families vaccinated nationwide and educate them on other simple prevention tricks. Learn more...

The FLU Ends with U. Healthcare providers make a difference. Learn more:

National Influenza Vaccination Week
The CDC started National Influenza Vaccination Week as a way to highlight the importance of continuing flu vaccination, as well as foster greater use of flu vaccine through the months of December, January and beyond. Learn more at:

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