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Flu Overview

What is Flu?

Influenza (flu) is a highly contagious disease caused by influenza viruses. Symptoms include fever, sore throat, and cough. The disease is spread through the air by coughing or sneezing. Read more about flu and how it affects people on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website.

What are the symptoms of flu?

Flu has the following symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Tired
  • Dry cough
  • Sore throat

Who is at risk?

Everyone is at risk for getting sick from flu. Certain people are at greater risk, including:

  • Young kids (especially kids under five years).
  • People 65 years and older.
  • People of any age with certain health conditions like asthma and lung diseases, diabetes, heart disease, neurological conditions, kidney or liver disorders, cancer, cystic fibrosis, and sickle cell anemia.
  • Pregnant women.
  • American Indians and Alaskan Natives.
  • Health care professionals.
  • Household contacts and caregivers of kids, especially those in contact with babies under six months of age who are too young to get seasonal flu vaccine.
  • Household contacts and caregivers of people in any of the above groups.

Limit the spread of flu

There are a number of things you can do to limit the spread of flu.

  1. Everyone six months and older should get a flu vaccine every year.
  2. Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  3. Wash your hands, cover your mouth and nose, and stay home if you are sick.

Flu Vaccine

When do people get flu vaccine?

Everyone six months and older should get a flu shot every year.

Children under nine years of age may need two doses of flu in one season if they’ve never received a flu vaccine before.

For adults aged 65 and older

There are special kinds of flu shots for people aged 65 and older that are different than regular flu shots. Fluzone High-Dose and Fluad adjuvanted shots are intended to give a stronger immune response than regular flu shots, offering better protection against flu illness. Your doctor will help you understand which flu shot is right for you.

Grandparents… Protect your loved ones against flu and whooping cough (PDF)

Who should not get a flu vaccine?

Children under six months of age and people with severe allergies to any ingredient in the vaccine should not get a flu vaccine. For more information, visit the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) webpage, Who Should and Who Should not Get a Flu Vaccine.

What are the side effects of flu vaccine?

Most people experience minor or no side effects. The most common side effects of flu vaccine include:

  • Soreness, swelling, and redness where the vaccine was given.
  • Fever.

This vaccine is continually monitored for safety. The benefits and side effects of this vaccine outweigh the risk of getting flu.

Why is flu vaccine important?

Getting the flu vaccine can help keep you from getting sick with flu. Additionally, it can reduce the severity of flu in people who are vaccinated but still get the flu.

Flu vaccines are reviewed and updated each year because the influenza virus is constantly changing. This is why it is important to get a flu vaccine every year.

Getting vaccinated protects yourself, your family, and others in the community. This protects people who can’t get vaccinated, such as those with weakened immune systems and infants.

Vaccine Information Statement and Resources

The Vaccine Information Statement (VIS) is given to people at the time of vaccination. It explains the benefits and risks of the specific vaccination.

Read the current flu VIS from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Additional resources for the public

Additional resources for health care providers

Childhood Vaccine Program

The Washington State Childhood Vaccination Program provides vaccines to children 18 years of age and younger at no cost. Flu vaccine is included in this program.

View participating health care providers on the Department of Health’s Vaccine Provider Map.