Blog | What You Should Know About the 2016-2017 Influenza Season

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Before we know it, Autumn will be here.  Along with cooler temperatures, colorful leaves, pumpkin patches and football games comes flu season.  The flu can wreak havoc.  Every year, millions of people get sick, hundreds of thousands are hospitalized and thousands die from the flu.[1]

What do cancer patients & survivors- whose immune system may be weakened from cancer treatments- need to know about the flu?

Doctor’s offices around the country are vaccinating their patients for the upcoming 2016-2017 flu season NOW.  The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that people who have had cancer or who currently have a diagnosis of cancer- as well as their families and close contacts- get vaccinated before the end of October.

Below is important information that every cancer patient & survivor should know about the flu:

  • The flu shot is a seasonal vaccine. Every year it gets updated to protect against the strains of flu virus expected to cause illness in the upcoming flu season.
  • Having or surviving cancer does NOT put you at an increased risk for getting the flu per se. It does, however, put you at an increased risk of complications from the flu virus. Complications can include pneumonia, hospitalization and even death.
  • Getting the flu vaccine is your best protection against the flu. Always talk with your medical team prior to getting vaccinated.  Under certain circumstances, there may be some cancer patients who should not get vaccinated.
  • For the 2016-2017 flu season, the CDC recommends the use of the flu shot (inactivated influenza vaccine or IIV) and the recombinant influenza vaccine (RIV) only. The nasal spray flu vaccine (live attenuated influenza vaccine or LAIV) should NOT be used for anyone- with or without cancer- this year.[2]
  • Call the doctor if you think you’ve been exposed to the flu. You may be prescribed an antiviral medication, which can help stop the virus from infecting your body.
  • If you have flu-like symptoms, contact your health care provider immediately.
  • Because people with cancer are at an increased risk of pneumonia, talk to your health care provider about the pneumococcal vaccine when you discuss the flu shot.
  • If you haven’t already gotten a flu shot, schedule an appointment with your doctor today.

[1] http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/65/rr/rr6505a1.htm?s_cid=rr6505a1_w
[2] http://www.cdc.gov/flu/index.htm