Flu Shots: Fact vs. Fiction

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The following information is from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Influenza ("flu") is a contagious disease that spreads around the United States every winter, usually between October and May.

Flu is caused by the influenza virus, and can be spread by coughing, sneezing and close contact.

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Anyone can get the flu, but the risk of getting flu is highest among children.

Symptoms can occur suddenly and may last several days.  They can include:

  • fever/chills
  • sore throat
  • muscle aches
  • fatigue
  • cough
  • headache
  • runny or stuffy nose

Flu can make some people much sicker than others. 

These people include young children, people 65 and older, pregnant women and people with certain health conditions – such as heart, lung or kidney disease, or a weakened immune system.  Flu vaccine is especially important for these people, and anyone in close contact with them.

Flu can also lead to pneumonia and make existing medical conditions worse.  It can cause diarrhea and seizures in children.

Each year thousands of people in the United States die from flu, and many more are hospitalized.

Flu vaccine is the best protection people have from flu and its complications.

Flu vaccine also helps prevent spreading flu from person-to-person.

There are two types of influenza vaccine:

The flu vaccine, which does not contain any live influenza virus.  As a result, you can’t get the flu from getting a flu shot, which dispels a belief by some that you can get the flu from getting a flu shot.

A different, live, attenuated (weakened) influenza vaccine is sprayed into the nostrils.

Flu vaccine is recommended every year.  Children 6 months through 8-years of age should get two doses the first year they are vaccinated.

Each year’s flu vaccine is made to protect from viruses that are most likely to cause disease that year.

While flu vaccine cannot prevent all cases of flu, it is the best defense against the disease.  Inactivated flu vaccine protects against 3 or 4 different influenza viruses.

It takes about two weeks for protection to develop after the vaccination and protection lasts several months to a year.  That dispels another belief by some that if you get a flu shot early in the flu season, that it won’t last throughout the entire season. 

You can experience mild problems after getting a flu shot, which include:

  • soreness, redness or swelling where the shot was given
  • hoarseness; sore, red or itchy eyes; cough
  • fever
  • aches
  • headache
  • itching
  • fatigue

If these problems occur, they usually begin soon after the shot and last 1 or 2 days.

Some people could experience a severe allergic reaction after getting a flu shot (estimated less than 1 in a million doses).

For more information on the safety of flu vaccines, visit:  www.cdc.gov/vaccinesafety/

If you have a severe reaction to a flu shot, it should be reported to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS). 

Your doctor might file that report, or you can do it yourself through the VAERS Website at www.vaers.hhs.gov or by calling toll-free, 1-800-822-7967.  VAERS is only for reporting reactions.  They do not give medical advice.

People who believe they may have been injured by a vaccine can learn about the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP) and how to file a claim by calling toll-free, 1-800-338-2382 or visiting the VICP Website at www.hrsa.gov/vaccinecompensation

For more information about the flu and how to protect yourself from it, ask your doctor, call your local or state health department or contact the CDC at 1-800-232-4636 or online at www.cdc.gov/flu

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Tom Kenny joined ABC 36 News in June of 2001 as a General Assignment Reporter. A native of Peoria, Illinois, he graduated cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communications from Western Illinois University. He currently anchors ABC 36 News at 5pm, 6pm and 11pm. Tom has more than three decades of experience in broadcast journalism. He is the only broadcast journalist in Lexington television history to be honored with a national Edward R. Murrow Award. Tom was recognized for reporting on a story that gave a rare glimpse inside the secretive world of the Federal Witness Protection Program. He has won an Emmy Award for anchoring and another for investigative reporting, exposing the deceit and potential danger of online diploma mills. Tom has ten other Emmy nominations to his credit for investigative and feature reporting. He has won Associated Press Awards for reporting and anchoring. He has won two Addy Awards for excellence in promotional writing. Tom was the first broadcast journalist in Lexington TV history to be awarded the Silver Circle Award by the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. It is one of the highest honors given by NATAS. It recognizes television professionals who have performed distinguished service within the television industry for 25-years or more. Tom was honored for more than his longevity, he was recognized for making an enduring contribution to the vitality of the television industry and for setting high standards of achievement. He was also recognized for giving back to the community as a mentor, educator and volunteer. Tom also has network broadcast experience in radio and television having worked as a sports reporter for ESPN, Sportschannel, NBC Sports and the Breeders’ Cup. He was also the studio host and halftime producer for CBS Radio Sports’ College Football Game of the Week and covered the NFL for One-On-One Radio Sports. Prior to joining WTVQ-TV, Tom was Vice-President of the Houston Astros Minor League baseball team in Lexington. He was part of the original management team that brought professional baseball back to the Bluegrass after a nearly 50-year absence. Tom has lived in Lexington since 1984. In that time, he has been heavily involved with dozens of charity and civic groups, with a special emphasis on helping Veterans. He can be reached at tkenny@wtvq.com. You can also follow Tom on Facebook www.facebook.com/TomKennyABC and Twitter @TomKennyNews. Just click on the links at the top of the page.