Flu Q&A - pg. 8

Q.  When is the flu season in the United States?

In the United States, the peak of flu season can occur anywhere from late December through March. The health impact (infections and deaths) of a flu season varies from year to year. CDC monitors circulating flu viruses and their related disease activity and provides influenza reports each week from October through May.

Q.  How many people get sick or die from the flu every year?

Each flu season is unique, but it is estimated that approximately 10% to 20% of U.S. residents get the flu, and an average of 114,000 persons are hospitalized for flu-related complications. About 36,000 Americans die on average per year from the complications of flu.

Q.  Do other respiratory viruses circulate during the flu season?

In addition to the flu virus, several other respiratory viruses also can circulate during the flu season and can cause symptoms and illness similar to those seen with flu infection. These non-flu viruses include rhinovirus (one cause of the "common cold") and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), which is the most common cause of severe respiratory illness in young children as well as a leading cause of death from respiratory illness in those aged 65 years and older.

Q.  What are some of the myths about flu?

There are several common myths about flu, including:

Myth #1:
Influenza is merely a nuisance.
Wrong.  Influenza is a major cause of illness and death in the United States and leads to an average of about 36,000 deaths and 114,000 hospitalizations per year.
Myth #2:
Flu shots cause the flu.
Wrong. The licensed injectable flu vaccine used in the United States, which is made from inactivated or killed flu viruses, cannot cause the flu and does not cause flu illness.   
Myth #3:
Flu vaccine doesn’t work
Not exactly.  When the viruses in the vaccine and circulating viruses are similar, the flu shot is very effective. There are several reasons why people think influenza vaccine doesn't work. People who have gotten a flu vaccination may then get sick from a different virus that causes respiratory illness but is mistaken for flu; the flu shot only prevents illness caused by the influenza virus.  In addition, protection from the vaccine is not 100%. Studies of healthy young adults have shown flu vaccine to be 70% to 90% effective in preventing the flu. In the elderly and those with certain long-term medical conditions, the flu shot is often less effective in preventing illness. However, in the elderly, flu vaccine is very effective in reducing hospitalizations and death from flu-related causes.  
Myth #4:
There is no need to get a flu vaccine every year.
Wrong.  The flu viruses are constantly changing.  Generally, new influenza virus strains circulate every flu season, so the vaccine is changed each year.

Source:  CDC