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National Influenza Vaccination Week Archived Discussion Room

Fairfax County, Virginia

National Influenza Vaccination Week

This week is National Influenza Vaccination Week. Influenza activity is increasing in parts of the country and further increases are expected in the coming weeks and months. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that everyone over the age of 6 months receive a flu vaccine each year. Join the Fairfax County Health Department’s Deputy Director for Medical Services Dr. Raja’a Satouri for an Ask Fairfax! chat on Wednesday, December 5, at 1 p.m. to discuss the flu, vaccinations and winter health. For more information about the flu, visit

Raja Satouri : Good afternoon and welcome everyone.  I'm very happy to participate in today's online chat about influenza.  Flu is an important topic and impacts the entire community, so I'm happy to answer any questions that you have about flu and flu vaccine.

Bryant : I saw on the news that flu season arrived the earliest in 10 years. What does that mean? Flu season will be longer? Or over sooner?

Raja Satouri : This year flu season arrived approximately 1 month earlier than we have seen in previous years.  Flu seasons are unpredictable so it is hard to say whether we will see worse illness or a longer duration but we should all be prepared for the possibility by getting our flu shots. Flu season is just beginning in the United States and the season may not peak until February or March. It's also possible that we could continue to see flu in the U.S. until May so it is not too late to get your vaccine.

Anonymous User : I've read that flu shots only prevent one type of flu strain. Is this accurate? What about all the other strains of flu out there?

Raja Satouri : Each year, experts from Food and Drug Administration (FDA), World Health Organization (WHO), U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other institutions study virus samples collected from around the world. They identify the influenza viruses that are the most likely to cause illness during the upcoming flu season so that people can be protected against them through vaccination. The 2012-2013 seasonal influenza vaccine will protect against Influenza A H1N1 -like virus; Influenza A H3N2-like virus; and Influenza B virus.  CDC reports that this year’s flu shot is a very good match to the circulating viruses and it is recommended that anyone over the age of 6 months obtain an influenza vaccine.

Anonymous User : What are good suggestions for protecting children under 6 months from the flu? why can't newborns get a flu shot?

Raja Satouri : The flu vaccine is not approved for children under the age of 6 months.  One way that you can protect infants is by ensuring that parents and caregivers who are around the infant get vaccinated, which creates a "cocoon" of protection around the infant.  Additionally, washing your hands frequently with warm soap and water before interacting or feeding the baby is a good practice.  People who are ill or have flu-like symptoms should not visit or care for the baby.  It's also a good idea to avoid bringing unvaccinated infants to crowded public places during flu season.

Amber : I just had a baby and I made my parents get a flu shot before they came over because I didn't want them to infect my son. But, they said they couldn't infect my son if they weren't sick. Is that true? I thought they could.

Raja Satouri : People can be infectious with influenza 24 hours before they exhibit their first symptom.  Your baby can’t get vaccinated against influenza until he or she is 6 months of age, which is why we recommended that parents and caregivers of young infants get vaccinated. 

Charlie C. : I've heard that you can get your flu vaccine through a nasal spray. I absolutely hate shots. But where do I get the nasal spray, and is it as effective as the shot?

Raja Satouri : Both the flu shot and the nasal spray flu vaccine are effective and protect against the flu.  The nasal spray vaccine is available for people 2 through 49 years of age, who are not pregnant or do not have other chronic health conditions. (People who cannot get the nasal spray vaccine can usually get the flu shot.) Nasal spray vaccine is available at many doctor’s offices and pharmacies, but not everyone carries it so you may want to call ahead if you’re interested in the nasal spray.  In addition, the nasal spray flu vaccine is available at the Health Department’s five district offices.  Visit to learn more.

Anonymous User : Do those new flu shots with the 90% shorter needles that are advertised on TV work?

Raja Satouri : Yes, they are effective.  The intradermal flu vaccine is a shot that is injected into the skin instead of the muscle. The intradermal shot uses a much smaller needle than the regular flu shot, and it requires less antigen to be as effective as the regular flu shot. Antigen is the part of the vaccine that helps your body build up protection against flu viruses. The intradermal vaccine protects against the same three flu viruses that are included in this year's other seasonal flu vaccines. The intradermal flu vaccine works in the body in the same way as a regular flu shot.

Anonymous User : If I don't want to get a flu shot is there another way I can prevent the flu?

Raja Satouri : Getting the flu vaccine is simple, and it's the most important thing you can do to protect yourself and your family from the flu; however, there are many other things you and others can do to reduce your risk.  These include washing your hands properly and frequently; covering your coughs and sneezes; and staying home when sick for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone.  These are healthy habits that everyone should practice throughout the year.  In addition, other general healthy habits such as eating well, exercising, and sleeping well will help you fight off illnesses like influenza. With all that said, if you haven't gotten your flu vaccine yet, there is still time to protect yourself and your family by getting vaccinated.

Franklin R : Is stomach flu caused by the same virus as seasonal flu?

Raja Satouri :

Influenza and what most people call the “stomach flu” are different.

Influenza, or the flu, is a respiratory disease and not a stomach or intestinal disease. Symptoms of influenza include fever plus a cough and/or sore throat, feeling feverish/chills, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches, fatigue (tiredness).  In addition, some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults.

Many people use the term “stomach flu” to describe illnesses with nausea, vomiting or diarrhea. These symptoms can be caused by many different viruses, bacteria or even parasites. In children, vomiting, diarrhea, and being nauseous or “sick to your stomach” can sometimes be related to the flu.

Sissy : I received a flu shot in October. I'm in my late forties and healthy, but, I had a horrible cold in November that lasted a full week. Do I need a pneumonia shot as well?

Raja Satouri : Cold and flu are cause by different viruses.  Flu vaccine protects against only influenza viruses.  So, even if you get the flu shot, it is still possible to get a cold.  Compare the symptoms of cold and flu on our webpage:

As for pneumococcal vaccine (pneumonia shot), CDC recommends it for adults age 65 years and older and younger adults who smoke or have certain chronic health conditions.  You can learn more on the CDC’s website here:  Check with your health care provider to see if the pneumonia shot is appropriate for you.

Anonymous User : What are the side effects from the flu shot? Is it safe for young children?

Raja Satouri : The flu shot is safe and is recommended for children as young as 6 months of age. Many children need two doses of flu vaccine this season to be fully protected. For example, some children 6 months through 8 years of age who are getting vaccinated for the first time will need two doses. Even some children in this age group who have received a flu vaccine in prior seasons may need two doses. Your child’s health care provider can tell you whether two doses are recommended for your child.
Common side effects of the flu shot are soreness, redness or swelling at the injection site, fever (low grade), or aches. If these problems occur, they begin soon after vaccination and usually last 1 or 2 days.

Alivia : Does the health department have free flu shots this year?

Raja Satouri :

The health department offers flu shots to the general public for $25.  There are some federal programs like the Vaccine for Children’s program where eligible children can obtain a flu vaccine for free.

The Health Department has flu vaccine available, including flu mist vaccine, at our five district offices.  (find location here:

karin : does medicaid cover the cost of the vaccination?

Raja Satouri : Yes, Medicaid in Virginia does cover the cost of an influenza vaccination.  Most insurance companies also cover the cost and you can check with your individual insurance provider if unsure.

Kristi Coats : can my son get the flu shot at the same time I'm taking him to get his dtap or does it have to be separate?

Raja Satouri : Yes, your son can get the flu shot at the same time as he gets most of his routine vaccines.  Your health care provider should let you know whether your son can receive a nasal spary vaccine or flu shot in at the same time as other vaccines. 

Raja Satouri :

Thank you all very much for your questions.  I have enjoyed today’s online chat.  We have now run out of time, but I’d like to conclude by saying that I hope everyone will take time to get a flu vaccine this season and remember to take these simple steps that will protect yourself, your family and the whole community: wash your hands, cover your coughs and sneezes, and stay home when sick.

Remember, you can learn more about the flu and flu vaccine on our website, and more about the simple steps you can take to prevent here:

Thank you,
Dr. Raja’a Satouri