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Influenza Season - 2020

Even healthy people can get influenza (flu), and it can be serious.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends a yearly flu vaccine for everyone six months and older, especially those at high risk for serious complications (i.e., infants, children, adults >65; those with heart disease, asthma, diabetes; pregnant women). Healthcare staff are at risk for contracting the flu and transmitting it to their patients.

While seasonal flu viruses are detected year round in the U.S., flu viruses are most common during the fall and winter. Flu activity begins in October and peaks between December and February, although activity can last as late as May.

Flu vaccine is the best way to protect against flu. Vaccination can reduce illness, doctors’ visits, missed work and school, and prevent hospitalizations.

  • 39,000,000 – 56,000,000 flu illnesses
  • 18,000,000 – 26,000,000 flu medical visits
  • 410,000 – 740,000 flu hospitalizations
  • 24,000 – 62,000 flu deaths
  • It can take from one to four days after exposure for symptoms to appear.
  • You can be contagious for one to two days before your symptoms appear.

Through April 4; these estimates are calculated based on CDC’s weekly influenza surveillance data and are preliminary.

Flu can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death. Flu is different from a cold. Flu usually comes on suddenly. People who have flu often experience some or all these symptoms:

  • Fever* or feeling feverish/chills
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue (tiredness)
  • Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea. This is more common in children than adults.

*It’s important to note that not everyone with flu will have a fever.

  • Wash hands often with soap and water, especially after a cough or blowing nose.
  • Use alcohol-based hand rubs if soap and water are not available.
  • Cough or sneeze into elbow/sleeve or cover with tissue and wash hands afterwards.
  • Don’t touch eyes, nose, mouth as viruses are spread that way.

Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) – Pregnant and postpartum women are at higher risk for severe illness and complications from influenza (flu), particularly during the second and third trimesters. ACIP recommends all women who are pregnant or who might be pregnant or postpartum during the flu season get a flu shot.

American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) – The ACOG recommends pregnant women get a flu shot to protect both mom and baby.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – During flu season, CDC considers pregnancy a high-risk situation and recommends pregnant women get a flu vaccine and in the form of a shot, not the nasal spray vaccine. Flu shots given during pregnancy help protect both mother and baby from flu. Evidence supports the benefits and safety of flu vaccine in pregnancy. Flu vaccine is also safe for breastfeeding women.

  • What is the difference between flu and COVID-19?
    • While both are contagious respiratory illnesses, flu and COVID-19 are caused by different viruses. COVID-19 is caused by infection with a new coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) and flu is caused by infection with influenza viruses. Some of the symptoms of flu and COVID-19 are similar; it may be hard to tell the difference between them based on symptoms alone, and testing may be needed to help confirm a diagnosis. Flu and COVID-19 share many characteristics, but there are some key differences between the two.
  • CDC – Interim Guidance for Immunization Services During the COVID-19 Pandemic. Healthcare providers should use every opportunity during the flu vaccination season to administer flu vaccines to all eligible persons.
  • WHO – Strategic Advisory Group of Experts (SAGE) on Immunization for Influenza Vaccination During the COVID-19 Pandemic – Interim guidance (Sept. 21)
    • Safe and effective influenza vaccines are part of broader influenza prevention and control efforts, which also include non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) (e.g., hand hygiene, physical distancing, respiratory hygiene/etiquette) and antivirals. SAGE recommends the following prioritization of risk groups for seasonal influenza vaccination during COVID-19:
      • Highest priority risk groups:
        • Health workers, including care workers, in hospitals, long-term care facilities (e.g., nursing homes, residential facilities, etc.) and the community are recommended as one of the highest priority groups for receipt of influenza vaccines during COVID-19 to minimize: absenteeism due to influenza and disruption to the workforce, spread of influenza from care providers to vulnerable patients and burden on the broader health system.
        • Older adults: Older adults are at much greater risk of severe disease and death due to flu than younger adults.
      • Additional risk groups:
        • Pregnant women
        • Individuals with underlying health conditions
        • Children

Image courtesy of Allan Foster via flickr licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.