Flu Prevention

Flu Prevention | The Flu Shot | If You Get the Flu

The flu is a respiratory illness that affects the nose, throat, and sometimes the lungs and is caused by the influenza virus. The flu may cause mild to severe illness. Some people, including older adults, young children, pregnant women, and people with certain health conditions, are at higher risk for serious flu complications.

Flu symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body or muscle aches, headache, chills, and fatigue. Some people also may experience vomiting, diarrhea, or respiratory symptoms without a fever.

Flu in Arizona

In Arizona, flu season usually begins in October and continues through May. For current flu activity in Arizona, visit azhealth.gov/flu.

Every year in the Arizona, on average:

  • Five to 20 percent of the population gets the flu
  • More than 4,000 people are hospitalized from flu complications
  • About 700 people die from flu

How does flu spread?

The flu virus is spread through small droplets sprayed while coughing, talking, or sneezing. A healthy person can catch the virus from close contact with an infected person, especially if they are within three feet for long periods. They can also get the flu by touching something with the virus on it, such as a hand, doorknob, or a used tissue, and then touching their mouth, eyes, or nose.

Symptoms start one to four days later. The average start time is two days. Since initial symptoms of influenza and colds are similar, it can sometimes be difficult to tell if you have the flu or a very bad cold. Influenza is a serious illness that can have life-threatening complications. Cold viruses rarely lead to death.

Flu is contagious one day before you show symptoms and the first week after the illness starts.

Flu Prevention

The single best way to prevent the flu is to get vaccinated each year. Good health habits and antiviral medications are other measures that can help protect against the flu. The “flu shot” is an inactivated vaccine, containing killed virus, that is given with a needle, usually in the arm. The flu shot is approved for use in people older than six months including healthy people and people with chronic medical conditions.

Vaccination is especially important for people at higher risk of getting the flu, including young children, pregnant women, those with chronic health conditions, and people 65 years and older.

CDC recommends that people get the flu vaccine by the end of October since it can take up to two weeks for your immune system to create antibodies to protect you against influenza. Getting vaccinated later, however, can still be beneficial, and vaccination should continue to be offered throughout the flu season, even into January or later.  Flu season can begin as early as October and last into summer.

Children younger than six months are at high risk of serious flu illness, but they are too young to be vaccinated. People who care for infants should be vaccinated.

The following additional measures can help protect against the flu:

  • Wash your hands.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth. Germs often spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches his or her eyes, nose, or mouth.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick. When you are sick, keep your distance from others to protect them from getting sick too.
  • Stay home when you are sick. If possible, stay home from work, school, and errands when you are sick. You will help prevent others from catching your illness. CDC recommends that you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or other necessities.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your arm when coughing or sneezing. It may prevent those around you from getting sick.
  • Practice other good health habits. Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat nutritious food.

"The Flu Shot"

Still, the single best way to protect yourself and your loved ones is to get vaccinated either by the flu nasal spray or injection. Flu vaccines are safe, effective and cannot cause the flu. There are many providers throughout the state offering vaccinations:

Call your primary care provider if you are considering vaccination. Ask him or her the following questions, and don't forget to ask if you are up-to-date on all your immunizations each time you have a yearly physical.

  • Does your provider carry the vaccine?
  • If not, can your provider order the vaccine?
  • Is the vaccine covered by insurance?

Community Health Centers accept most insurance and also offer the uninsured a sliding scale for services provided. Adults can receive immunizations and also general medical treatment.  

Walk-in care clinics are often located in pharmacies or other retail locations and immunizations are available at most locations. We do suggest that you call prior to going. Many are open seven days a week and accept insurance. Questions to consider are:

  • Is your vaccine covered by insurance?
  • Do they carry the vaccine you need?

Immunization clinics are held state-wide in various locations. Call or go to the website to locate a clinic near you. You can also walk in to their main site.

Your local pharmacy is able to administer vaccines, like the flu vaccine and Tdap (pertussis or whooping cough), to adults. Questions to consider are:

  • Does your pharmacy give shots?
  • How much does the vaccine cost?
  • Does your insurance cover it?
  • Does your insurance cover a vaccine administered at a pharmacy?

Most county health departments carry flu vaccine. Please contact your county health department for information on immunization clinic hours and fees.

To locate a flu shot clinic near you, visit:

If You Get the Flu

It is very difficult to distinguish between the flu and other infections from symptoms alone. A doctor's exam may be needed to tell whether you have developed the flu or a complication of the flu. There are tests that can determine if you have the flu as long you are tested within the first few days of illness.

If you develop flu-like symptoms and are concerned about your illness, especially if you are at a high risk for complications, you should consult your health-care provider. People at high risk for complications include people 65 years or older, people with chronic medical conditions (asthma, chronic lung disease, heart disease, kidney or liver disorders, etc.), pregnant women, and young children.

  • Get plenty of rest, drink a lot of liquids, and avoid using alcohol and tobacco.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick. When you are sick, keep your distance from others to protect them from getting sick too.
  • If possible, stay home from work, school and errands when you are sick. You will help prevent spreading your illness to others. Call your doctor if your symptoms last a long time or get worse over time.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or arm when coughing or sneezing. It may prevent those around you from getting sick.
  • Wash your hands often to help minimize the spread of germs.

If your doctor prescribes them, antiviral drugs can be used to treat your illness. Studies show that flu antiviral drugs work best when they are started within two days of getting sick. Contact your doctor right away if you think you have the flu.  Follow your doctor’s instructions for taking these drugs.

Educational Materials

Cold or Flu Flyer.pdf

Cover Your Cough Flyer.pdf

 

(Sources: Arizona Department of Health Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Maricopa County Department of Public Health)