Articles, Blog

Misconceptions about Flu and the Flu Vaccine

October 21, 2019

Hello. I’m Dr. Joe Bresee
with CDC’s Influenza Division. This video is intended
for general audiences, as well as physicians
and other healthcare providers. Today, I’ll provide answers
to several common questions and misconceptions patients have
regarding the flu and the flu vaccine. I’d like to begin by addressing
a common misconception about flu illness — the belief that flu
is not a serious disease. Truth is, flu is, in fact,
a serious disease that causes illness,
hospitalizations, and deaths every year in the U.S. Even healthy children and adults
can get very sick from the flu and spread it to family
and friends. CDC estimates that each year
on average, 5% to 20% of the U.S. population
are infected with the flu. In addition, CDC estimates
that more than 200,000 people may be hospitalized each year
because of the flu. Flu-related deaths vary
but are significant. Over a period of 30 years,
between 1976 and 2006, estimates of yearly
flu-associated deaths in the U.S. range
from a low of about 3,000 to a high of about 49,000. People also have misconceptions
about the kinds of illness associated with the flu. You’ve likely heard someone
say they have the stomach flu. And so I think it’s important
to answer the question, is the stomach flu
the same as the flu? The answer is no. 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. I’d like to emphasize that
the flu is a respiratory disease and not a stomach
or intestinal disease. While vomiting, diarrhea, and being nauseous
or sick to your stomach can sometimes be related
to the flu more commonly in children
than adults, these problems are rarely
the main symptom of flu. The most common flu symptoms
are fever or feeling feverish with chills, cough, sore throat,
runny nose or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headache,
fatigue, or feeling tired. As previously stated, some people may have vomiting
and diarrhea. It’s also worth mentioning that not everyone who has
the flu will have a fever. Now that we’ve covered a few misconceptions
about flu illness, I’d like to move on
to discuss misconceptions about the flu vaccine. I’ll begin
with a common question. Can a flu shot give you the flu? The answer is no. A flu shot cannot
cause flu illness. The influenza virus
is contained in the flu shot or inactivated —
in other words, killed — which means
they cannot cause infection. People also commonly ask about
the nasal spray flu vaccine and whether it can cause
flu illness. Unlike the flu shot, the nasal spray vaccine
does contain live viruses. However, the viruses contained
in the nasal spray flu vaccine are attenuated —
in other words, weakened — which means they cannot cause
flu illness either. These weakened viruses
are also cold-adapted, which means they’re designed
to only cause mild infection at the cooler temperatures
found within the nose. These viruses cannot infect the
lungs or other areas of the body where warmer temperatures exist. So, let’s move on to a different
but related question. Why do some people not feel well
after getting the flu vaccine? It’s true that some people
report having mild reactions to flu vaccination. I would like to begin by talking
about flu shots. The most common reaction
to the flu shot in adults has been soreness, redness,
or swelling at the spot
where the shot was given. This usually lasts
less than two days. This initial soreness
is most likely the result of the body’s
early immune response reacting to a foreign substance
entering the body. Other reactions following
the flu shot are usually mild and can include low-grade fever
and aches. If these reactions occur, they usually begin
soon after the shot and last one to two days. I’d like to emphasize that the most common reactions
people have to flu vaccines are considerably less severe than the symptoms caused
by actual flu illness. People also may have
mild reactions to the nasal spray vaccine. In children, reactions
to the nasal spray vaccine can include a runny nose,
wheezing, headache, vomiting, muscle aches,
and fever. In adults, reactions
to the nasal spray vaccine can include a runny nose,
headache, sore throat, and cough. Serious allergic reactions
to flu vaccines are very rare. If they do occur, it’s usually
within a few minutes to a few hours
after the vaccination. While these reactions can be
life-threatening, effective treatments
are available. The next question asks,
what about people who get a flu vaccine and still
get sick with flu-like symptoms? There are several reasons why someone might get
a flu-like illness even after they’ve been
vaccinated. One reason is that some people
can become ill from other respiratory viruses
besides flu, such as rhinoviruses, which are
associated with the common cold, that circulate
during the flu season and also cause
flu-like symptoms. Remember flu vaccine only
protects against flu viruses, not other viruses. Another explanation is that
it’s possible to be exposed
to influenza viruses, which cause the flu, shortly
before getting vaccinated or during the two-week period
after vaccination that it takes the body to
develop immune protection. This exposure may result in a
person becoming ill with the flu before protection from
the vaccine takes effect. A third reason why some people
may experience flu-like symptoms despite getting vaccinated is that they may have been
exposed to an influenza virus that is very different
from the viruses the vaccine is designed
to protect against. The ability of a flu vaccine
to protect a person depends largely
on the similarity or match between the viruses selected
to make the vaccine and those spreading and causing
illness in the community. There are many different
influenza viruses that spread and cause illness among people. For more information, visit the URL featured
in this presentation. The final explanation for experiencing flu-like
symptoms after vaccination is that, unfortunately, the flu
vaccine is not 100% effective, and sometimes it doesn’t provide
adequate protection against the flu. This is more likely to occur among people that have weakened
immune systems or people 65 years and older. However, even among those
of people, a flu vaccine can still help prevent
flu-related complication. The next question is, is it better to get the flu
than the flu vaccine? Short answer is no. We discussed earlier that
the flu is a serious disease, particularly among young
children, older adults, and people with certain chronic
health conditions such as asthma, heart disease,
and diabetes. Any flu infection can carry
a risk of serious complications, hospitalization, or death, even among otherwise healthy
children and adults. Therefore, getting vaccinated
is a safer choice than risking illness
to obtain immune protection. The next question is, do I really need to get
a flu vaccine every year? The answer is yes. CDC recommends a yearly flu
vaccine for just about everyone six months and older, even when the viruses
the vaccine protects against haven’t changed
from the previous season. The reason for this is that
a person’s immune protection from vaccination
declines over time, so an annual vaccination
is needed to get the optimal or best protection you can get
against the flu. The next question addresses
the timing of vaccination. The question is, should I wait
to get vaccinated so that my immunity lasts
through the end of the season? The answer to this question
is no. CDC recommends that influenza
vaccination begin as soon as the flu vaccine becomes available
in your community and continue
throughout the flu season. The flu season is unpredictable, and since it takes about
two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop
in the body that protect against influence
virus infection, it’s best that people
get vaccinated early so they’re protected before influenza begins
spreading in their community. While immunity can vary
by person, previously published studies
suggest that immunity lasts through a full flu season. Although adults 65 and older typically have a reduced immune
response to flu vaccination compared with young,
healthy adults, their immune protection still
extends through one flu season. In addition, a review
of published studies concluded that
no clear evidence exists that immunity declines more
rapidly in the elderly. It’s worth noting that the new
high-dose vaccine for people aged 65 and older
is intended to create a stronger immune response
in this age group. The next question also deals
with vaccine timing. The question is, is it too late to get vaccinated
after Thanksgiving? The answer is no. Vaccination can still be
beneficial as long as influenza viruses
are circulating. Flu season most often peaks
in January or February and can last as late as May
in the United States. And now for the last question. Can vaccinating someone twice
during an influenza season provide added immunity? The only group of people
recommended to receive more than one flu vaccine
during a single season are children 6 months
through 8 years of age who are receiving the vaccine
for the first time. These children need to get
two doses of flu vaccine four or more weeks apart during
the first season of vaccination to be fully protected. The first dose
primes the immune system, and the second dose provides
immune protection. Children who only get one dose
but need two doses can have reduced or no
protection from a single dose of flu vaccine. For all other groups, studies
have not demonstrated a benefit from receiving more than one
dose of flu vaccine during an influenza season, even among older people
with weakened immune systems. This concludes the CDC video on answers to common questions
and misconceptions about the flu
and the flu vaccine. Thank you for watching. For more information related
to the flu and the flu vaccine, please visit the CDC flu webpage


  • Reply Einar Ólafsson January 28, 2013 at 7:05 pm

    If you are trying to apply you message to people that belief to conspiracy theories, wearing military uniform is probably not the best way to present your message.:) If you use civilan cloths this message would be more easily searchable.

  • Reply mermaidcandy March 4, 2013 at 7:17 am

    I thought, if you had the flu, you had to have a fever over 101F degrees; otherwise, it is just a rhinovirus?

  • Reply Wenceslao Futanki October 25, 2013 at 3:38 am

    The biggest misconception is that the flu vaccine actually is good for you.

  • Reply The Matt February 8, 2014 at 5:43 am

    Do you want this in your bloodstream:

    Ethylene (antifreeze)
    Phenol ( disinfectant)
    Formaldehyde (causes cancer)
    Aluminum (causes cancer and alzheimer's
    Thimerosal (can cause brain injury)
    E-mycin (can cause extreme allergic reaction)

    Vaccines are grown and strained through human or animal tissue ( monkey kidney, chicken embryo, guinea pig cells, calf, dissected organs of human fetuses).
    Do you or your loved one's want that poison coursing though your bloodstream??

  • Reply Bob Silver November 29, 2014 at 6:06 pm

    Autism salesman.  

  • Reply Joshua Kwasny November 11, 2016 at 1:31 pm

    this sounds ridiculous…. Im supposed to get my vaccination next week but now Im thinking it over!!!

  • Reply Vermont Aviator March 2, 2018 at 10:19 pm

    This guy works for the CDC and does not care about you or your children, every one should do your own research from both sides of the debate, consider your resources, for example this guy is getting paid ALLOT of money to lie to you, The Doctors and Scientist who are trying to inform you all of the dangers have absolutely nothing to gain out of telling you not to get the influenza shot, every single person telling you to get the shot is either making a profit or they are a puppet to a certain organization profiting off these Vacine's which are killing more than saving or they are tied to agenda 21. I gain nothing off telling you to do extensive research before taking these poisonous injections. Do your research and you'll decide not to get this vaccine.

  • Reply GinnyB August 26, 2018 at 6:02 pm

    Sure wished he'd have mentioned all the ingredients involved and their possible side effects, huh?

  • Reply Sally Mariscal October 21, 2018 at 6:55 am

    I think everyone should look up the Ingredients of a Flu Vaccine. You will be Shock! I have never receive a Flu Vaccine in my life and I'll never will.

  • Reply douglas kuchenbecker October 26, 2018 at 6:09 am

    your full of it the shot is as little as 3 percent effective so stuff

  • Reply Jay Quie December 6, 2018 at 2:36 pm

    The amount of misinformation on here is unbelievable. The flu vaccine contains an inactivated version of the flu virus. Why then will someone get a low-grade fever after receiving the flu vaccine (mind you some people don't experience flu-like symptoms)? Well, your body invites the white blood cells to attack this inactivated version of the virus. The white blood cells (macrophages) after destroying the virus leave behind cytokines which are responsible for some of the symptoms you feel. Through this process, your body would have learned how to deal with the most of the viruses floating around for that particular time of the year (viruses change their genetic composition more than a woman changes her mind, lol). Think of this way, if you sign up for a karate class or exercise boot camp, you will finish that class and have a few scrapes and pain. The question is would you rather have those scrapes and pain now and be stronger to fight off a dangerous criminal or shy away from doing so while hoping you never find yourself in that situation.

    With reference to the ingredients of the flu vaccine, those ingredients are what preserves the virus in a state the body can recognize. People complain that the flu virus contains aluminum (0.125mg) but have no problem drinking from a can or bottle water which can contain more than 20mg of metals! Even more fascinating is that the same people will eat fast food (which is full of preservatives) but will balk at the idea of accepting a vaccine that protects them and those who have weakened immune systems in the community (e.g. babies, the elderly, cancer patients, etc).

  • Reply HyperViper March 14, 2019 at 12:34 am

    Doctors have to put their jobs on the line when they make these statements. Without follow up and evaluation all shots are useless. What if they didnt take? Are you saying all shots are 100% effective? The CDC has already had doctors leave and apologize about lieing to our doctors. Without full transparency on this issue its just a scam.

  • Reply findvoltage April 6, 2019 at 8:49 pm

    I don't think you should be taking advice from anyone in a military suit

  • Reply Susan Christiansz April 20, 2019 at 8:47 am

    I had a flu injection many years ago, and got the flu not long after that.  Since then, I haven't taken the flu shot.  What I have learned about Big Pharma. and the general medical establishment, has made me weary of their services and drug administrations.

  • Reply Ying Yang July 21, 2019 at 11:20 pm

    If the CDC is pushing then stay away from it

  • Reply Closet DAS August 15, 2019 at 12:32 pm

    The flu vaccines injures/kills more people a year than the flu shot itself.

    This guy gets paid big to lie lol

  • Reply Cassandra Anderson September 5, 2019 at 3:56 pm

    Glad to see so many people waking up. it is common sense that our immune systems are designed to protect us from illness. The best way to protect yourself from illness is to consume nutrients and micronutrients, as Mother nature intended. Food is our medicine. The pharmaceutical industry is all about profits. Do your research. You will also learn vaccinations are designed depopulate. This guy isn't even dry behind the ear, probably why the military uniform. Makes him appear more

  • Reply Voting for Bill Weld - Republican Primary October 1, 2019 at 9:39 pm

    Unvaccinated unharmed for 23 years now!

  • Reply Darlene Kerfoot October 2, 2019 at 5:17 pm

    ? CDC has not "guessed" the proper strain the past 2 years, much less than the mutation if Influenza A

  • Reply Darlene Kerfoot October 2, 2019 at 5:21 pm

    They don't take into consideration that everyone has 98 .6 body temperature. Not do they take into consideration the " live" bacteria can piggy back with other viruses or bacteria and mutate… It's the virus survival ..then you do get sick or become infectious

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