Influenza (flu) is caused by a virus that gets into the nose, throat and lungs. Flu spreads easily from one person to another when a person sick with the flu virus coughs, sneezes or talks. The flu usually occurs in the winter in the US, but the time when it begins to appear in the community varies from year to year. Flu season can begin as early as October and last until May.
According to the CDC, respiratory virus activity levels are currently very high in North Carolina. But don't worry, there's still time to get protection from the flu and other viruses!
How can I prevent the flu?
Vaccination is the best way to prevent the flu. Flu viruses change and new strains of flu often appear. Flu vaccine is made to protect against the strains of flu most likely to make people sick each year. This is why flu vaccine must be repeated every year. People should get flu vaccine as soon as supplies are available. It takes a couple of weeks to get protection from the vaccine.
Who should get flu vaccine?
Wake County Public Health encourages everyone to get vaccinated against the flu – especially children ages five and younger, and adults 65 and older – because they’re at greater risk of becoming seriously ill from flu.
They also advise that frontline workers, caregivers, first responders and people with underlying health conditions get a flu shot.
In North Carolina, flu infections are most common from late fall to early spring. The following precautions should be taken to protect against the spread of flu and other viruses like COVID-19:
Stay home when sick until fever-free for at least 24 hours
Wash hands frequently with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, rub hands with an alcohol based hand sanitizer.
Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue. Throw the tissue away promptly and wash hands.
Continue to practice the 3Ws--wearing a face covering over your nose and mouth, waiting six feet apart and washing hand often can help slow the spread of COVID-19 and the flu.
Which flu vaccine should I get?
Not everyone can get the same kind of vaccine and some people cannot get flu vaccine. Check with your vaccine provider to learn what type you can use or if you cannot get the vaccine.
Where can you get a flu vaccine?
You can get the flu vaccine at:
- Your health care provider
- Many pharmacies
- Urgent Cares
- Some grocery stores and churches.
- Other community flu shot locations near you: Vaccine Finder
How much does it cost to get flu vaccine at Wake County Health & Human Services?
Regular flu vaccine – The cost for regular flu vaccine is $30
High dose flu vaccine – The cost of high dose flu vaccine is $60
You will be asked to pay when you get your flu vaccine. Wake County Health & Human Services accepts:
- Medicare part B (bring your card with you)
- NC Medicaid (bring your card with you)
- Blue Cross Blue Shield, United Health Care and Cigna (bring your card with you)
- North Carolina Health Choice (bring your card with you)
There is no charge for flu vaccine this year for:
- Pregnant women without health insurance
- Children who qualify for the federal government's Vaccines for Children (VFC) Program
To qualify for vaccine under the VFC program, children must be under 19 years of age AND one of the following:
- Uninsured or underinsured
- Medicaid eligible
- American Indian or Alaskan Native
How do I keep from spreading the flu if I get it?
- Stay home when sick. Do not go to work, to school or run errands when you are sick. Keep children home from school and daycare when they are sick.
- DO go to the doctor if you need to go.
- Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue. Throw the used tissue away and wash your hands. No tissue? Cough or sneeze into your sleeve.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after sneezing or coughing. If soap and water are not available, rub hands with an alcohol based hand sanitizer.
- Stay away from other people. If possible, sleep in a separate room.
What are antiviral drugs?
Flu antiviral drugs can make your illness milder and make you feel better faster. Antiviral drugs are prescribed by a doctor and must be taken soon after symptoms begin to be effective.