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5 Most Common Myths about the Flu

An article from the UVM Health Network 2019 Flu Education series

With the health care experts from Central Vermont Medical Center, University of Vermont Health Network

Every flu season, people decide not to get the flu shot for reasons based on misconceptions about flu and flu vaccines.

To help you make an informed decision, we put five of the most common myths under the microscope to see how well they fare in light of the latest scientific evidence. Here we go!

Myth #1: Influenza is kind of like the common cold…it's not a big deal.

Influenza (flu) is a contagious respiratory illness that is easily spread and can result in hospitalization or even death.

Some people, such as older adults, young children and people with certain health conditions are at high risk for serious flu complications.

Myth #2: The flu shot can give me the flu.

It is impossible for the flu shot to give you flu illness because it does not contain the live virus. The influenza viruses contained in a flu shot are inactivated (killed), which means they cannot cause infection.

Some people have mild reactions to flu vaccine, such as soreness, redness or swelling where the shot was given. Other reactions are usually mild and can include a low-grade fever and aches. If these reactions occur, they usually begin soon after the shot and last 1-2 days.

Myth #3: I am healthy and never get the flu, so I don't need to get the flu shot.

Consider yourself lucky. Anyone can get very sick from the flu, including people who are otherwise healthy.

Influenza viruses are easily spread by droplets made when people with flu cough, sneeze or talk. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people up to six feet away.

Myth #4: The flu shot does not keep people from getting influenza.

The flu shot does not guarantee you won’t get influenza, but it significantly reduces your risk. Recent studies show the flu shot reduces the risk of flu illness by about 50% to 60% among the overall population during seasons when most circulating flu viruses are like the vaccine viruses.

Myth #5: It’s not necessary to get the flu shot every year.

Influenza viruses are constantly changing, so the vaccine is reviewed each year and sometimes updated to protect against the three or four viruses most likely to spread illness.

And get this: a person's immune response from vaccination actually declines over time, so an annual vaccine is needed for optimal protection.

So be sure to get the flu shot every year. You’ll be doing the right thing for yourself, your family and our community.

For more information about seasonal flu, flu vaccine and other preventive actions you can take, visit the CDC’s webpage.