Agencies | Governor
Search Virginia.Gov
Protecting You and Your Environment Virginia Department of Health
Home | VDH Programs | Find It! A-Z Index | Newsroom | Administration | Jobs | Data
Facebook LinkedIn Twitter YouTube

Seasonal Influenza

Influenza, commonly referred to as ‘the flu,’ is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses.  It can cause mild to severe illness and even death.  Each year on in the United States, on average:

  • 5% to 20% of the population gets the flu;
  • More than 200,000 people are hospitalized from flu complications, and;
  • About 36,000 people die from the flu.

Flu viruses are spread mainly from person to person though coughing and sneezing of an infected person. Also, people may become infected by touching something with the flu virus on it and then touching their mouth or nose. Healthy adults may be able to infect others beginning 1 day before symptoms develop and up to 5 days after becoming sick. That means you may pass on the flu to someone else before you even know you are sick.


Preventing Seasonal Influenza:  Get Vaccinated

The best way to prevent the flu is to get a flu vaccination every year.  There are two types of vaccines.

  • The ‘flu shot’ – an inactivated vaccine (containing killed virus) that is given with a needle.  The flu shot is approved for use in people 6 months of age and older, including healthy people and people with chronic medical conditions.
  • The nasal-spray flu vaccine – a vaccine made with live, weakened flu viruses that do not cause the flu (sometimes called LAIV or “Live Attenuated Influenza Vaccine”).  LAIV is approved for use in healthy people aged 2-49 years who are not pregnant.

About two weeks after vaccination, antibodies develop that protect against influenza virus infection.  Flu vaccines only protect against illnesses caused by influenza viruses, not flu-like illnesses caused by other viruses.


When to Vaccinate


Yearly flu vaccination should begin in September or as soon as vaccine is available and continue throughout the influenza season.  The best time to receive influenza vaccine is during October and November; however vaccination in December, or even later, can still prevent the flu.  January and February are typically peak flu months in Virginia, but increased flu activity can last into March or even later.  Protection develops about two weeks after vaccination and may last up to a year.


Who Should be Vaccinated?

In general, anyone who wants to reduce their chances of getting the flu can get vaccinated.  However, certain people should get vaccinated each year because they are either at high risk of having serious flu-related complications or because they live with/care for such persons.  People who should get vaccinated each year are:Vaccination

  • Children aged 6 months up to their 19th birthday
  • Pregnant women
  • People 50 years of age and older
  • People of any age with certain chronic medical conditions
  • People who live in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities
  • People who live with/care for those at high risk for serious complications, including:
  • Health care workers
  • Household contacts and caregivers of high risk individuals or children too young to be vaccinated (less than 6 months of age)

New this year, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) have added children 5-18 years old to the previous recommendations to vaccinate children 6 months–4 years of age.  So now influenza vaccination is recommended for all children aged 6 months up to their 19th birthday. 

The expanded recommendations to vaccinate children 5 years old and up include 30 million school-age children.  While these older children seldom get as sick as infants and toddlers, this population catches the flu at higher rates, so protection through vaccination should result in fewer missed days from school and less time away from work for parents.

Vaccination of school aged children can also help protect their families and the community.  Children are key flu spreaders.  Several recent studies have show that communities with more young children tend to have earlier and increased levels of respiratory illness compared to areas that have fewer youngsters.


Click Here for a Page of Quick Links and Flu Resources


Last Updated: 08-02-2011

Printable Version

E-mail This Page