December 2009, updated August 2013
Why You Should Get the Flu Vaccine
Infectious Diseases


Flu and pneumonia are significant causes of death from vaccine-preventable diseases, with 86 percent of these deaths occurring in adults age 65 or older, including those residing in long-term care facilities. For those who have an underlying health condition (e.g., diabetes, heart disease), vaccines can help protect from making your underlying condition worse. The long-term care residents who received flu vaccinations, published by AHRQ, was 88.1% for Pennsylvania compared to the national all state average of 91.1%. Pennsylvania nursing homes ranked 30th for residents given the flu shot. Pennsylvania is about three percent below the national average in giving the flu shot to its nursing home residents. Learn more about the flu vaccine below.

Key Facts About Seasonal Flu

(from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

Influenza is a serious and contagious disease.

Each year in the United States, on average, seasonal flu complications account for the hospitalization of more than 200,000 people and 29,916 deaths. Flu like symptoms include: fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills, fatigue and possibly vomiting or diarrhea.

The CDC urges you to take 3 actions to protect against the flu:

Take time to get a flu vaccine.

CDC recommends a yearly seasonal flu vaccine as the first and most important step in protecting against seasonal influenza. Vaccination is especially important for people at high risk of serious flu complications, including young children, pregnant women, people with chronic health conditions like asthma, diabetes or heart and lung disease and people 65 years and older.

Seasonal flu vaccine also is important for health care workers, and other people who live with or care for high risk people to keep from making them sick. People at greatest risk for infection include children, pregnant women, and people with chronic health conditions like asthma, diabetes or heart and lung disease. For more information on influenza virus visit the Pennsylvania Department of Health web site.

Take everyday preventive actions.

  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Germs spread this way.
  • Try to avoid close contact with sick people and, while sick, limit contact with others as much as possible to keep from infecting them.
  • If you are sick with flu-like illness, stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities.
  • Follow public health advice regarding school closures, avoiding crowds and other measures to keep our distance from each other to lessen the spread of flu.

Take flu antiviral drugs if your doctor recommends them.

Antiviral drugs can make illness from seasonal flu milder and shorten the time you are sick and may also prevent serious flu complications.

Antiviral drugs are prescription medicines (pills, liquid or an inhaled powder) that fight against the flu by keeping flu viruses from reproducing in your body. Antiviral drugs are not sold over-the-counter and are different from antibiotics.

The priority use for antiviral drugs is to treat people who are very sick (hospitalized) or people who are sick with flu-like symptoms and who are at increased risk of serious flu complications, such as pregnant women, very young children, people 65 and older and anyone with certain chronic health conditions. (Most people have been able to recover at home without needing medical care.)

For treatment, antiviral drugs work best if started within the first two days of symptoms.

For more information, visit: or or call 800-CDC-INFO.

Consumers can go to the Pennsylvania Department of Health’s web site at for locations to receive the flu shot by zip code, click on “Focus on Flu.”

For more information, go to the 2009 December Pennsylvania Patient Safety Advisory article “Increasing Influenza and Pneumonia Vaccination Rates in Long-Term Care” or click here to go to the Authority website. 

©2018 Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority