Don’t Let Flu Give You the Holiday Blues!

Family holiday dinner

This year, National Influenza Vaccination Week (NIVW) takes place December 2-8, 2018. CDC established NIVW in 2005 to highlight the importance of continuing flu vaccination through the holiday season and beyond.     

Influenza (Flu) is more than a cold, or even a “bad cold,” and can result in serious health complications like pneumonia, bacterial infections, and hospitalization. Flu can sometimes lead to death. In fact, during the 2017-2018 flu season, CDC estimates flu caused:

  • 49 million flu illnesses – more than the combined populations of Texas and Florida
  • 960,000 flu hospitalizations – more than the number of staffed hospital beds in the United States
  • 79,000 deaths – more than the average number of people who attend the Super Bowl each year

Get Vaccinated!

Few people get vaccinated against flu after the end of November, but flu activity most commonly peaks between December and February and flu activity can last as late as May. If you have not received a flu vaccine yet this season, it’s not too late! CDC recommends that everyone 6 months and older who has not been vaccinated yet this season, get vaccinated now. It takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop in the body that provide protection against influenza virus infection, so get vaccinated right away. Flu activity is expected to increase in the coming weeks, including over the holidays when many people travel and visit family and friends. The sooner you get vaccinated, the more likely you are to be protected against flu when activity picks up in your community. The best step you can take to keep your family, and yourself, protected from flu is to get a flu vaccine!

The Flu Vaccine Provides Many Benefits!

There are many reasons to get a flu vaccine each year.

  • Flu vaccination can keep you from getting sick with flu.
  • During the 2016-2017 flu season, flu vaccine prevented an estimated:
    • 5.3 million flu illnesses – about the population of the Atlanta metropolitan area
    • 2.6 million flu illnesses – about the population of the city of Chicago, Illinois
    • 85,000 flu hospitalizations – more than the number of hospital beds in California and Oregon
  • Flu vaccine can be life-saving in children.
    • A 2017 study is the first of its kind to show that flu vaccination can significantly reduce a child’s risk of dying from flu.
  • Flu vaccination helps prevent serious medical events associated with some chronic conditions.
    • Flu vaccination is associated with lower rates of some cardiac eventsExternal among people with heart disease, especially among those who had a cardiac event in the past year.
    • Separate studies show flu vaccination is associated with reduced hospitalizations among people with diabetes and chronic lung disease.
  • Vaccination helps protect women during and after pregnancy.
    • A 2018 studyExternal showed that getting a flu shot reduced a pregnant woman’s risk of being hospitalized by 40 percent.
    • Vaccination reduces the risk of flu-associated acute respiratory infection in pregnant women by up to one-half.External
  • Several studies show flu vaccination reduces the severity of illness in people who get vaccinated, but still get sick.
  • Getting yourself vaccinated may also protect the people around you, including those who are most vulnerable to serious flu illness, like babies and young children, older people, and people with certain chronic health conditions.

Flu Vaccine Options for the 2018-2019 Season:

There are many different flu vaccine options, including nasal spray flu vaccine.

  • Other options include high dose flu vaccine and flu vaccine with adjuvant for people 65 and older.
  • Flu vaccines protect against the 3 or 4 viruses that research suggests will be most common.

There’s More You Can Do to Help Prevent Flu!

In addition to getting your flu vaccine this season, CDC also urges you to take everyday preventive actions to protect yourself and your loved ones from flu.

  • Avoid close contact with sick people.
  • While sick, limit contact with others as much as possible to keep from infecting them.
  • If you are sick, stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone, except to get medical care or other necessities.
  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth. Germs spread that way.
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with flu viruses.

The Message of NIVW: Get Vaccinated Now!

CDC and its partners choose December for NIVW to remind people that even though the holiday season has begun, it is not too late to get a flu vaccine. You can get vaccinated at your doctor’s office and various locations in your community where flu vaccine is available. Grocery stores, pharmacies, and your local health department may administer flu vaccine. Use the HealthMap Vaccine FinderExternal to find flu vaccine locations near you. Once vaccinated, you can enjoy this holiday season knowing that you have taken the single best available step to protect yourself and your loved ones against flu!

For more information on what you should know about the current flu season, visit Frequently Asked Flu Questions 2018-2019 Influenza Season.

Page last reviewed: December 3, 2018