Last updated Jan. 11, 2018
Is flu spreading in Spokane?
Yes, flu is currently circulating in Spokane County. Protect yourself and others by getting the flu vaccine and using good health manners; washing hands, covering coughs, and staying home and away from others when sick.
What is influenza (also called the "flu")?
Influenza is commonly called the "flu." Influenza is a highly contagious respiratory illness caused by a virus that infects the nose throat, and lungs. It can cause moderate to severe illness.
When does flu occur?
Flu occurs in the United States most often in the fall and winter. The virus commonly peaks in January through mid-March in Spokane County.
What are the symptoms of flu?
People with flu often have:
If you or someone you know has these symptoms and they are severe, contact your doctor, nurse or clinic as soon as possible. The best way to tell if you have flu is for a health care provider to swab your throat and have a lab confirm the diagnosis.
How does flu spread?
The flu spreads easily from person to person by coughing and sneezing and can spread to others before a person knows they're sick. Adults can infect others one day before symptoms develop and up to five days after becoming sick. Kids can spread the virus for 10 or more days.
Does past infection with flu make a person immune?
No, because there are many viruses that cause flu and they change from year to year. People who have had the flu or a flu shot in previous years may become infected with a new strain.
How do you prevent the flu?
The best way to prevent the flu is to get a flu shot each year, as soon as vaccine is available. Using good health habits can also help stop the spread of flu: washing your hands, covering your cough, and staying home when you're sick.
How serious is the flu?
The flu is unpredictable and can be severe, especially for older people, young kids, pregnant women, and people with certain health conditions. These groups are at greater risk for serious complications if they get the flu, including:
There are several flu vaccine options for the 2017-2018 flu season.
Traditional flu vaccines made to protect against three different flu viruses (called “trivalent” vaccines) are available. In addition, flu vaccines made to protect against four different flu viruses (called “quadrivalent” vaccines) also are available. The nasal spray flu vaccine (live attenuated influenza vaccine or LAIV) should not be used during 2017-2018 due to a lack of proven effectiveness for preventing influenza.
Trivalent flu vaccine protects against two influenza A viruses (an H1N1 and an H3N2) and an influenza B virus. The following trivalent flu vaccines are available:
The quadrivalent flu vaccine protects against two influenza A viruses and two influenza B viruses. The following quadrivalent flu vaccines are available:
Find additional information on flu vaccine on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's website.
Can flu vaccine give you the flu?
No. Flu vaccine cannot give you the flu.
Some people incorrectly believe that they can get flu from the vaccine. The flu shot only contains proteins from the flu virus, so the virus cannot reproduce itself and cause illness.
Can I get the flu vaccine if I have an egg allergy?
In general, people who have egg allergies can still receive flu vaccine. Most flu vaccines are manufactured using egg-based technology. Because of this, they contain a small amount of egg proteins. However, studies that have examined the use of flu shots in egg-allergic and non-egg-allergic patients indicate that severe allergic reactions in people with egg allergies are unlikely (1.31 per one million vaccine doses given).
See the CDC website for more information on flu vaccine and egg allergies. A previous severe allergic reaction to flu vaccine, regardless of the component suspected of being responsible for the reaction, is a contraindication for future receipt of the vaccine.
Does flu vaccine protect against viruses other than the flu?
No. Flu vaccine will not prevent illness from other flu-like viruses, including flu viruses not in the current flu vaccine. The vaccine contains three or four strains of flu viruses that research suggests will be circulating during the flu season.
Does vaccine protect throughout the flu season?
Yes. Getting vaccinated now will protect you throughout the flu season. Vaccination is the best way to protect yourself, your family, and your community from the flu. Be sure to check with your health care provider about getting a flu shot before flu viruses are circulating heavily in our area. A flu shot given in September has proven effective through the entire flu season (April-May of the following year) for the viruses contained in the flu shot.
How long does it take for the vaccine to protect people from the flu?
It takes about eight to ten days after a single dose for the vaccine to create a strong immune response in most healthy adults. It can take up to two weeks in people most vulnerable to serious complications from an influenza infection. If you're planning to travel, be sure to get your flu shot at least two weeks before your trip.
What is the cost of flu vaccination for children under 19 years of age?
The Washington State Department of Health provides flu vaccine to all children under age 19 at no cost. Health care providers may charge an office visit fee and a fee to give the vaccine, called an administration fee. People who cannot afford the administration fee can ask their regular health care provider to waive the cost. Adults with insurance can talk to their insurance provider about coverage for flu vaccine.
How effective is the flu vaccine?
Flu vaccine effectiveness is influenced by several factors. Every year the flu vaccine is formulated based on a best estimate of the predominant virus strains likely to be circulating that year. Some years the virus strain match is better than other years.
No vaccine is 100 percent effective at preventing illness. The flu vaccine can provide moderate protection and help reduce severity of disease, even during a season when the vaccine is not as well matched to the circulating strains as was predicted. Flu vaccine helps prevent illness for approximately 12 months.
For more information, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's "Vaccine Effectiveness--How Well Does the Flu Vaccine Work?" page.
How do I find a flu vaccine?
Where can uninsured and underinsured individuals get low- or no-cost flu vaccinations?
Spokane Regional Health District recommends Spokane Mobile Clinic (509-552-6292) for low- to no-cost flu vaccinations.
Contact one of the following agencies for assistance with an on-site clinic.
Spokane Mobile Clinic
Tara Eggart or Christine Pratt
509-552-6292 (Tara) or 509-216-8998 (Chris)
Inland Northwest Health Services
Who should get flu vaccine?
Everyone six months and older should get a yearly flu shot! Certain people are at greater risk for serious complications and are especially encouraged to get a flu vaccine, including:
How many doses of flu vaccine does my child need?
Check with your doctor, nurse or clinic about how many doses your child needs. Generally, if your child has previously received at least 2 doses of seasonal influenza vaccine before July 1, 2016 and is between the ages of 6 months and 8 years, or if your child is over age 9, only one dose of influenza vaccine is recommended for the 2017-18 season.
If he or she is between 6 months and 8 years and has never received a flu vaccine or has never received at least two doses before July 1, 2016 s/he will need two doses of vaccine this season administered 4 weeks apart.
Is the flu vaccine safe?
Yes. Flu vaccines have a very good and long safety record. Over the last 50 years, flu vaccines have been shown to be safe. The vaccine is made and rigorously tested in the same way each year, no matter what strains are included.
Like any medication, vaccines may have side effects. Every year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) works closely with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), health care providers, state and local health departments, and other partners to ensure the highest safety standards for flu vaccines. The CDC also works closely with the FDA to monitor unexpected health problems following vaccination.
Visit these links for more information about vaccine safety:
Are there side effects to the flu vaccine?
Side effects from the flu vaccine are mild, localized reactions. The most common side effects are:
Life-threatening allergic reactions are rare. If they do occur, it's usually within a few minutes to a few hours after the shot was given.
People who get the flu vaccine will be screened for an allergy to eggs that may be a precaution but not necessarily a contraindication. A vaccine information statement will be provided at the time you get your shot about benefits and risks, signs of side effects to look for after vaccination and how to report side effects (also called adverse events).
What can I do if I have a side effect from a vaccine?
If you think you or your child may have a side effect from a vaccine, be sure to discuss this with your health care provider and either:
Can I get a mercury-free (or thimerosal-free) flu vaccine?
Yes, it may be available. Mercury-free flu vaccines are available and meet the requirements of the mercury-limiting law that went into effect in Washington state on July 1, 2007. The law requires that pregnant women and children under age three be given vaccines that are mercury-free (or thimerosal-free).
What is thimerosal?
Thimerosal is a preservative still used in some versions of the flu vaccine to prevent contamination. Thimerosal contains a type of mercury called ethylmercury. Ethylmercury breaks down and leaves the body more quickly than methylmercury (the type of mercury found in the environment) and is much less likely to accumulate in the body and cause harm. A thimerosal-free influenza vaccine is defined as having less than 1.0 microgram of mercury per 0.5 milliliter dose.
Ask your doctor, nurse or clinic about mercury-free flu vaccines for you or your child or if you have more questions about this law.
Protect yourself and others
Take these simple precautions to help prevent the spread of flu:
Can the flu be treated?
Yes. There are medications called "antiviral drugs" that can be used to treat the flu. These drugs must be prescribed by a doctor.
Who should take antiviral drugs?
It’s very important that antiviral drugs be used early to treat people who are very sick with the flu (for example, hospitalized people) and those who are sick with the flu and have a greater chance of serious flu complications due to their age or because they have a high risk medical condition. Otherwise-healthy people who get the flu do not need to be treated with antiviral drugs.
Where can I find more information about antiviral drugs?
More information can be found by visiting the CDC's "What you should know about flu antiviral drugs" web page.
What should I do if I think I have the flu?
If you have flu symptoms and they are severe, contact your doctor, nurse or clinic as soon as possible, especially if you are at high risk of developing flu-related complications. The best way to tell if you have flu is for a health care provider to swab your throat and use a lab test to confirm the diagnosis. If you have the flu, antiviral drugs are a treatment option.
How long should I stay home if I'm sick?
The CDC recommends that you stay home from work, school, travel, shopping, social events and public gatherings for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care. Your fever should be gone for 24 hours without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.
Five steps to take if you get the flu
For more information about what to do if you or someone close to you gets the flu, visit the CDC's webpage, "The Flu: Caring for someone sick at home."
Important information about antibiotics
Antibiotics don't work against viruses that cause colds or influenza. Antibiotics are for illnesses caused by bacteria not viral illnesses. If you take antibiotics for a viral illness, you could develop resistant germs or "superbugs." Then, when you really need an antibiotic for a serious bacterial illness, it may not work. Find more information on DOH's antibiotics page.
No. The emergency room should be used for people who are very sick. You should not go to the emergency room if you are only mildly ill.
If you have the emergency warning signs of flu sickness, also listed below, you should go to the emergency room. If you get sick with flu symptoms and are at high risk of flu complications or you are concerned about your illness, call your health care provider for advice. If you go to the emergency room and you are not sick with the flu, you may catch it from people who do have it.
In addition to the signs above, get medical help right away for any infant who has any of these signs:
There is certainly lots of media, rumors and misunderstanding about a recent publication from Australia speaking to the effectiveness of this year's flu vaccine. Various sources report 10% effectiveness for a portion of the flu vaccine specific to influenza A H3N2 and the Southern Hemisphere. For a number of reasons, the Australian situation is not necessarily predictive of what we should expect in the U.S. or in Spokane County.