Doctor: Influenza and Flu vaccines

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the flu, or influenza, affected about nine million people last flu season (October through May). This is presumably due to COVID-19 mitigation efforts such as masking and social distancing that have since become less pressurized.

While you may feel more at ease this year, it is important to stay diligent against respiratory illnesses. So far for this year’s flu season, there have been 2.8 million illnesses, about 23,000 hospitalizations, and 1,300 deaths that have been caused by the virus.

What is Influenza?

Any time a person feels ill around this time of year, they usually understand their symptoms to fall under a flu diagnosis no matter how mild or severe their symptoms may be. However, it is important to know what the flu technically entails in addition the usual symptom of a general unwell feeling. 

Influenza, commonly known as the flu, is a virus that attacks the lungs. It is often confused with the common cold or stomach flu. Symptoms include fever, body aches, chills, fatigue, headaches, sore throat, runny nose, and a persistent cough.

The stomach flu is more related to digestive issues and challenges the ability to keep food down. Vomiting, pain in the abdomen, and diarrhea are symptoms more consistent with the stomach flu.

The common cold features symptoms similar to influenza, but has the additional issues of runny noses, sneezing, and a sore throat. Both the flu and the cold can have symptoms that could linger for more than a week.

Flu Vaccination

The best way to keep the flu at bay is to receive the vaccination every year. The influenza virus mutates over time, and the newest version of the vaccine reflects these changes to best protect our communities.

By receiving the vaccination annually, you are greatly lowering your risk for contracting the flu. If you do contract the virus, the vaccine typically lessens the effect of flu symptoms and complications. 

Tips for Getting Vaccinated

It is recommended that anyone six months of age and older should get a flu shot around the beginning of flu season (about September). However, this is not a deadline, and you can still get the shot at any time.

The first step to help make sure the vaccination process runs smoothly can begin with a conversation with your doctor. While the flu shot is very safe for most people, you can go over any hesitations or concerns you may have before receiving the vaccination. 

Ensure that you are well rested and that you remain calm. Vaccinations may cause side effects like pain at the site of the injection, muscle aches, headache, or fatigue, and getting more sleep can improve your body’s response to the flu shot. 

To learn more about the flu vaccination and where to get vaccinated, go to UPMC.com/Flu.


Rutul Dalal, M.D., is the medical director of UPMC Infectious Disease in North Central Pa. and sees patients at UPMC Williamsport, 700 High St., Williamsport.

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  • On the PULSE

    On the PULSE is an online media outlet in Northcentral, Pennsylvania. We specialize in in-depth journalism, human interest content and video features. Our mission is to build engagement in community through local news.

On the PULSE

On the PULSE is an online media outlet in Northcentral, Pennsylvania. We specialize in in-depth journalism, human interest content and video features. Our mission is to build engagement in community through local news.

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