Influenza virus (commonly known as “the flu”) is a serious disease caused by a virus. Influenza virus can spread from one person to another through small droplets of saliva that are expelled into the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. The virus can also be passed through contact with objects the infected person has touched, such as a door handle or other surfaces.

Influenza virus vaccine is used to prevent infection caused by influenza virus. The vaccine is redeveloped each year to contain specific strains of inactivated (killed) flu virus that are recommended by public health officials for that year.

The injectable influenza virus vaccine (flu shot) is a “killed virus” vaccine. Influenza virus vaccine is also available in a nasal spray form, which is a “live virus” vaccine.

Influenza virus vaccine works by exposing you to a small dose of the virus, which helps your body to develop immunity to the disease. Influenza virus vaccine will not treat an active infection that has already developed in the body.

Influenza virus vaccine is for use in adults and children who are at least 6 months old.

Becoming infected with influenza is much more dangerous to your health than receiving this vaccine. Influenza causes thousands of deaths each year, and hundreds of thousands of hospitalizations. However, like any medicine, this vaccine can cause side effects but the risk of serious side effects is extremely low.

Like any vaccine, influenza virus vaccine may not provide protection from disease in every person. This vaccine will not prevent illness caused by avian flu (“bird flu”).

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  • If any of the following side effects occur while taking influenza virus vaccine, inactivated, check with your doctor or nurse immediately:

    Incidence not known:
    difficulty with swallowing
    fast heartbeat
    hives, itching, or skin rash
    puffiness or swelling of the eyelids or around the eyes, face, lips, or tongue
    tightness in the chest
    unusual tiredness or weakness
    Severity: Minor
    Some of the side effects that can occur with influenza virus vaccine, inactivated may not need medical attention. As your body adjusts to the medicine during treatment these side effects may go away. Your health care professional may also be able to tell you about ways to reduce or prevent some of these side effects. If any of the following side effects continue, are bothersome or if you have any questions about them, check with your health care professional:

    More common:
    Difficulty with moving
    joint pain
    muscle aching or cramping
    muscle pains or stiffness
    pain at the injection site
    swollen joints
    Less common:
    redness, bruising, or swelling at the injection site
  • (intramuscular suspension, intramuscular solution, intradermal suspension)