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Flu Season Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

In an effort to help patients stay informed about influenza, we have created the FAQs below from information provided by The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH).

Will there be flu with COVID-19 this winter?

While it’s not possible to say with certainty what will happen in the fall and winter, relaxed COVID-19 precautionary measures in many communities across the state may result in an increase in flu activity. In this context, getting a flu vaccine will be more important than ever. CDC recommends that all people 6 months and older get a yearly flu vaccine.

Can I have flu and COVID-19 at the same time?

Yes. It is possible have flu, as well as other respiratory illnesses like RSV, and COVID-19 at the same time. Health experts are still studying how common this can be. Some of the symptoms of flu and COVID-19 are similar, making it hard to tell the difference between them based on symptoms alone. Diagnostic testing can help determine if you are sick with flu or COVID-19.

How do I know if I am at high risk for influenza?

This CDC Influenza page features information on the groups of people who are more likely to get serious flu-related complications if they get sick with flu.

Frequently Asked Questions for Pregnant Women:

Why are flu vaccines being recommended for pregnant women?

Over the past several years, studies and case reports have suggested that seasonal influenza can be especially dangerous in pregnant women and it can lead to hospitalization or severe illness. Infection with the flu also increases the risk of delivering a baby early which can cause complications for the newborn. Because of this, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Atrius Health OB/GYN department recommend that women who are pregnant accept the flu vaccine as soon as it’s available and prior to the peak of the flu season. The vaccine will protect against four influenza strains that are predicted to circulate this year. Flu vaccination is needed every year to boost and maintain immunity.

What if I am pregnant and I get the flu?

Call your healthcare provider right away if you have flu symptoms or if you have close contact with someone who has the flu. Some pregnant women sick with influenza have had early labor and severe pneumonia. If you are pregnant and have symptoms of the flu, take it very seriously. Call your healthcare provider right away for advice and possible antiviral medication.

What can I do to protect myself, my baby, and my family?

Getting a flu shot is the single best way to protect against the flu. Talk with your doctor about getting the 2023-24 flu shot. The influenza vaccine has been shown to protect both the mother and her baby (up to 6 months old) from the flu.

Talk with your doctor right away if you have close contact with someone who has flu symptoms. Your doctor may prescribe Tamiflu® or Relenza® antiviral medication to help prevent you from becoming sick with the flu.

Is it safe for pregnant women to get a flu shot?

The seasonal flu shot has been given to millions of pregnant women over many years. Flu shots have been shown to be safe for pregnant women and their babies.

Can the influenza shot be given at any time during pregnancy?

Influenza vaccines are recommended to pregnant women at any time during pregnancy.

If a pregnant woman delivers her baby before receiving her flu shot, should she still receive it?

Yes. Besides protecting her from infection, the shot will produce protection that can be passed to the infant through her breast milk. Flu shots are only given to infants 6 months of age and older. Everyone who lives with or gives care to an infant less than 6 months of age should get the influenza vaccine.

What antiviral medicines are available for pregnant women who have the flu?

Oseltamivir (Tamiflu®) or zanamivir (Relenza®) can be used to treat influenza. To get these medications, a doctor needs to write a prescription. These medicines fight against the flu by keeping the viruses from multiplying in your body. If you get sick, the antiviral drugs can make your illness milder and make you feel better faster. They may also prevent serious health problems that can result from flu illness. At this time, Tamiflu® is the best medicine to treat pregnant women who have the flu. Atrius Health has ample supply of Tamiflu available at its pharmacies for patients who have a prescription.

Frequently Asked Questions on Seasonal Influenza Vaccine for Patients 65 Years and Older:

What is the vaccine recommended for patients 65 years and older at Atrius Health?

Fluad, which is the name of a flu vaccine manufactured by Seqirus, is recommended for patients 65 years and older at Atrius Health this season. Fluad is known as an “adjuvanted” flu vaccine which is a type of flu vaccine that creates a stronger immune response to protect against influenza. CDC recommends for adults >=65 years old to preferentially receive either an adjuvanted flu vaccine or a high dose flu vaccine. The Fluad flu vaccine is readily available and safe for patients 65 years and older at Atrius Health this flu immunization season. Data support greater benefit for this flu vaccine relative to a standard-dose unadjuvanted flu vaccine for that age group.

Who can get this vaccine?

Fluad is approved for use in people 65 years of age and older and Atrius Health locations will be administering this adjuvanted flu vaccine to patients 65 years and older.

What are the possible side effects of the 2023-24 influenza vaccines?

The most common side effects after flu shots are mild, such as being sore and tender, red and swollen where the shot was given. Some people might have headache, muscle aches, fever, and nausea or feel tired. If these problems happen, they usually begin soon after the shot and may last as long as 1-2 days. Some people may faint after getting any shot. Rarely, flu shots can cause serious problems like severe allergic reactions. However, life-threatening allergic reactions to vaccines are very rare.