If you haven’t gotten your flu shot already, the Alabama Department of Public Health, the Medical Association of the State of Alabama and the Alabama Hospital Association encourage you to get vaccinated for influenza.
While flu activity is currently low, influenza outbreaks tend to occur during the winter months. It takes about two weeks for the flu shot to be effective and flu season can last until May.
Everyone 6 months of age and older (with rare exceptions) should get the flu vaccine, especially this year when the demands on Alabama’s healthcare system are significant due to COVID-19. Influenza vaccination will not prevent COVID-19, but it is the best way to minimize the risk of flu.
Flu and COVID-19 disease share many of the same symptoms — fever, headache, sore throat, muscle aches and fatigue. However, COVID-19 is caused by infection with the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 and flu is caused by infection with influenza viruses. Similar symptoms may make the two illnesses more difficult to diagnose and treat. Getting a flu vaccine will reduce the chances of possible misdiagnosis and getting both diseases at the same time.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), vaccination is particularly important for people who are at high risk of serious complications from influenza. The flu vaccination has many important benefits. It can reduce flu illnesses, doctors’ visits, missed work and school due to flu, as well as prevent flu-related hospitalizations and deaths.
Different flu vaccines are approved for use in different groups of people.
- There are flu shots approved for use in children as young as 6 months old and flu shots approved for use in adults 65 years and older.
- Flu shots also are recommended and approved for use in pregnant women and people with certain chronic health conditions.
- The nasal spray flu vaccine is approved for use in non-pregnant individuals who are 2 years through 49 years of age. People with some certain medical conditions should not receive the nasal spray flu vaccine.
While there are many vaccine options from which to choose, CDC does not recommend one flu vaccine over another. The most important message is for all people 6 months of age and older to get a flu vaccine every year.
In addition to providing protection for yourself, the more people who are immunized for flu, the better the public is protected. Furthermore, fewer people will be hospitalized for flu at a time when physicians need hospital beds not only for COVID-19 but for other health needs that require hospitalization. In addition to getting vaccinated, other steps that are needed to help prevent COVID-19 and influenza are as follows:
- Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub containing at least 60 percent alcohol.
- Social distance by staying at least 6 feet away from others.
- Avoid close contact with those outside your household; avoid people who are sick.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a face covering when around others.
- Cover coughs and sneezes.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
- Routinely clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces and objects that may be contaminated.
- Stay home if you can.
- Monitor your health.
Contact your private physician, pharmacy or county health department for a flu clinic schedule.
For more information, visit alabamapublichealth.gov/flu/index.html.