Influenza FAQ

When does the flu season start?
Ordinarily, the seasonal flu in US begins in October and continues through May, peaking in December through March. However, the time frame, length and severity of each flu season fluctuates year to year as well as between different parts of the country.

What kind of flu vaccine will I be getting in BU Occupational Health Center?
BU Occupational Health Center is offering Fluarix Quadrivalent for the 2020-21 flu season. It’s a cell-based vaccine that is antibiotic-, preservative-, and latex-free. This vaccine is designed to protect against four strains of the flu virus:

  • A/Guangdong-Maonan/SWL1536/2019 (HlNl) CNIC-1909
  • A/Hong Kong/2671/2019 (H3N2) NIB-121
  • B/Washington/02/2019 (B-Victoria lineage)
  • B/Phuket/3073/2013 (B-Yamagata lineage)

How serious is the flu disease?
Many people mistakenly consider the flu a “minor” disease. However, while some people might see a relatively quick resolution of the illness, others develop complications as serious as pneumonia, dehydration and worsening of chronic medical conditions. Per CDC’s estimation, since 2010, the flu has resulted in between 9.2 million and 35.6 million illnesses and between 140,000 and 710,000 hospitalizations each year in the United States. Flu-associated deaths in the United States ranged from 12,000 to 56,000 per year in a period between 2010 and 2014. While the severity of the flu in each individual is impossible to predict, populations most at risk for complications of the flu include the elderly, young children and those with medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes, cardiac disease, cancer, respiratory conditions, and others.

How can I protect myself from the flu?
The best way to protect yourself, your family, your coworkers and your community is to get a flu vaccine each year. In order to get protection before the flu season begins, it is recommended to obtain a flu vaccine as soon as it becomes available. However, it is still strongly recommended to get a flu vaccine later in the season if you did not receive it earlier.
Other important measures to prevent the flu include avoiding contact with people sick with the flu, frequent hand washing, and staying home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone. If you have the flu and are very sick, you should call your doctor within 48 hours and ask about antiviral medications that may help treat the illness.

Why do I need to get vaccinated against the flu every year?
Flu viruses change, or drift, every year. In order to match predominant flu strains in the new season, new flu vaccines are formulated every year. When you get a flu vaccine, your immune system responds by producing antibodies specific to the viruses expected to circulate that year. Moreover, seasonal flu vaccines are found to also sometimes provide protection against other flu viruses. However, this immune protection can decline over time. This, along with the genetic drift in flu viruses, is the reason it is important to get vaccinated against the flu every year.

Can I get the flu vaccine if I have egg allergies?
If you have a history of severe allergic reactions to the Fluarix Quadrivalent vaccine (e.g., anaphylaxis) or to any component of the vaccine, including egg protein, or following a previous dose of any influenza vaccine, please consult with your primary care provider to determine if you are able to receive this vaccine.

Why do some flu vaccines contain thimerosal?
The flu vaccines currently offered by BUOHC do not contain thimerosal.

Will the high dose flu vaccine recommended for people age 65 years or older be available?
No, we will not be supplying the high-dose flu vaccine.  Although the safety profile of Fluzone High-Dose vaccine is similar to that of regular flu vaccines, there was an increase in reporting of adverse events with the high-dose vaccination. If your doctor recommends a high-dose or other specified vaccine, you will need to obtain it from your primary care provider, pharmacy, or other health care clinic.

Can the flu vaccine give me the flu disease?
No. The intramuscular flu vaccine is not a live vaccine and cannot give you the flu. In some cases, flu vaccines can cause side effects such as soreness at the site of injection, mild fever, headache, or general malaise because your immune system develops these symptoms in response to a foreign substance entering the body. These symptoms are short in duration and will resolve. The majority of people do not experience any side effects at all.

I never get the flu, should I still get vaccinated?
Yes. Even though you have not suffered from the flu yet, you are still at risk for getting the flu for as long as you are breathing. Remember – the flu is a respiratory illness, it is contagious, and you may be exposed to it without knowing.

Where can I get a flu vaccine?
BU Occupational Health Center conducted free flu clinics for the university employees each fall and winter.  Flu vaccines can be obtained through your primary care provider, at many pharmacies, and through some of the local Health and Human Services departments.