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MIT Flu Central:

Flu FAQ

Updated September 24, 2014

Getting Vaccinated | Flu Vaccine | About the flu virus

 

Getting Vaccinated

How many flu vaccinations will I need for the 2014–15 flu season?
Adults will need just one vaccination. Children between 6 months and 9 years old will need two doses, spaced at least a month apart, if this is the first time they're receiving a flu vaccination.

How do I get vaccinated against flu?
See our vaccination page to learn how to get a flu vaccination.

Is parking available for the flu clinics on campus?
A limited number of short-term spaces will be available in the Kresge lot for the flu clinic in Stratton Student Center on October 16. Just check in with the attendant to be directed to one of those reserved spaces. Parking will be limited to the time it takes to get a flu shot. No on-campus parking will be available for the clinic on October 22.

Can my family members get their flu shots at an MIT walk-in clinic or at MIT Medical?
Your family members can get their flu shots at MIT if they are covered by an MIT health plan and get their health care at MIT Medical. If your family member is not covered by an MIT health plan, or if your family member has a primary care provider outside of MIT Medical, he or she may not get a shot.

I can’t make a walk-in clinic; how can I get my shot?
If you miss the walk-in clinics or can’t make any of those dates, just call the MIT Medical Flu Line at 617-253-4865 to schedule a time to stop by MIT Medical for your shot.

I need documentation of my flu shot; how can I get it?
The easiest way, by far, is to ask for documentation at the time you get your shot. We can give you a copy of a form with all the information you’ll need. If you don’t get documentation at the time you get your shot, you have a couple of options. From fastest and easiest to more difficult and time-consuming, your options are:

  1. If you have a FollowMyHealth account with MIT Medical, just log on and print out documentation of all your immunizations.
  2. If you have a primary care provider (PCP) at MIT Medical, you can call his or her office to request the documentation you need.
  3. Call the MIT Medical Flu Line at 617-253-4865, and we’ll track down the information you need.

Can I get the pneumonia vaccine at the flu clinic?
No, you will have to make an appointment with your primary care provider to get the pneumonia vaccine.

Will my health insurance cover the cost if I get a shot off campus?
Depending on your insurance coverage, you may be able to get a flu shot at no cost to you at a CVS Minute Clinic or another retail pharmacy. Certain restrictions apply, based on the type of coverage you have. To make sure you’re covered, talk with MIT Medical’s Claims and Member Services by sending an email to mservices@mit.edu or calling 617-253-5979.

Flu Vaccine

Is the flu vaccine safe?
Every year, the seasonal flu vaccine produces mild side effects in approximately 5 to 10 percent of people (most commonly, soreness at the site of the vaccination). An extremely small number of people experience a more serious allergic reaction. In general, however, most experts believe that the risk from flu itself is greater than any potential risks from a vaccine, particularly for the most vulnerable groups. The CDC estimates that during a 30-year span (the period from the 1976–1977 flu season to the 2006–2007 season), the number of flu-associated deaths in the U.S. ranged from about 3,000 to 49,000 people per season.

However, some people should not get a flu vaccine without first consulting a physician. These include:

  • People who have a severe allergy to chicken eggs
  • People who have had a severe reaction to an influenza vaccination
  • People who developed Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) within six weeks of getting a previous influenza vaccine
  • Children less than six months old
  • People who have a moderate to severe illness with a fever (they should wait until they recover to get vaccinated)

Should I get the pneumonia vaccination?
One of the most severe complications of influenza is the increased risk of developing bacterial pneumonia—especially with the pneumococcus bacteria. For this reason, pneumococcal vaccine (Pneumovax) is recommended for some people, including:

  • Adults aged 65 or older
  • Smokers
  • People with underlying medical problems such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease, lung disease, and several other conditions.

For more information, see Pneumococcal Polysaccharide Vaccine: What You Need to Know.

In addition, the American College of Immunization Practices recently voted to recommend that adults aged 65 or older should also receive a second type of pneumonia vaccine, Prevnar-13, in addition to the Pneumovax. Ask your primary care provider if this is right for you.

Who should get the FluMist nasal spray vaccine?
The American College of Immunization Practices recommends that healthy children aged 2 years through 8 years should receive the FluMist vaccine, which is a live attenuated influenza vaccine, unless there is some reason that makes it inadvisable for them to receive this vaccine. For example, FluMist should not be given to children who have asthma. Children should receive the regular injectable vaccine if FluMist is not available or advisable. FluMist is not available at MIT Medical but may be available at retail pharmacies. Read more about FluMist.

Should persons over age 65 get the Fluzone High-Dose vaccine?

Fluzone High-Dose is approved for persons aged 65 and older. However, since it has not yet been proven to reduce the risk of pneumonia or death compared to regular flu vaccine, the American College of Immunization Practices has not recommended that persons over age 65 should receive Fluzone High-Dose rather than the regular flu vaccine. Fluzone High-Dose is not available at MIT Medical but is available at retail pharmacies, including CVS Minute Clinics. See “Will my health insurance cover the cost if I get a shot off campus?

Can people with egg allergy receive flu vaccine?
Yes! There is one brand of flu vaccine that is produced without chicken eggs—FluBlok. FluBlok is not available at MIT Medical but may be available at retail pharmacies. Read more about FluBlok. See “Will my health insurance cover the cost if I get a shot off campus?

About the flu virus

What is the incubation period for the influenza virus?
"Incubation period" refers to the period between the time an individual becomes infected with an illness and the time they begin showing symptoms. For flu, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that this period is between one and four days. According to the CDC, people infected with influenza are probably infectious—able to transmit the infection to other people—one day before they begin showing symptoms.

How can I keep from getting sick?
Viruses are spread mainly through uncovered coughs and sneezes, which can end up contaminating doorknobs, keyboards, and other surfaces. You may become sick after touching a contaminated surface, and then touching your eyes, mouth, or nose. Follow these guidelines to protect yourself and others:

  • Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly with soap and warm water, or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer
  • Cover coughs and sneezes
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth
  • Stay home if you are feeling sick

How should we clean workspaces if someone in our area becomes sick with flu-like symptoms?
To prevent the spread of illness, disinfect commonly touched hard surfaces in the workplace by wiping them down with a household disinfectant according to directions on the product label. This includes counter tops, door knobs, telephones, copy machines, work stations, and bathroom surfaces. Studies have shown that flu viruses do not remain infectious on environmental surfaces for more than eight hours. Frequent hand washing is the best way to avoid infection from contaminated surfaces.

What are the symptoms of influenza, and how serious is it?
Symptoms of influenza include fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills, and fatigue. Some people also report diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting.

What should I do if I have flu symptoms?
If you have flu-like symptoms, stay home and rest. If you are an MIT student, call MIT Medical to notify them of your illness and to get advice on treatment. If you do become ill, you should avoid contact with other people except to get medical care. Stay home until your temperature has remained normal for 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing drugs such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen.

Most patients do not get seriously ill with flu and recover completely without medical intervention. Antiviral drugs including Tamiflu and Relenza should be used only in severe cases or in patients with medical conditions that put them at risk for serious complications from the flu (see "Who is at higher risk for developing serious complications from influenza?").

To avoid spreading the illness to others, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health recommends that individuals who become sick with the flu should avoid close contact with other people until 24 hours after a fever has resolved and body temperature has remained normal without the use of fever-reducing drugs such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen. Human Resources at MIT has additional information on leave and payment policies for employees, and policies that would go into effect in the case of more widespread illness or another emergency.

When should I see a medical provider?
You probably don't need to be seen for flu-like symptoms unless you are pregnant or have an underlying medical condition that puts you at higher risk for developing serious complications from the flu (see "Who is at higher risk for developing serious complications from influenza?", or unless your symptoms are serious.

Serious symptoms in adults include:

  • difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
  • sudden dizziness, confusion
  • severe or persistent vomiting
  • flu-like symptoms that improve but then return with fever and worse cough

In children, serious symptoms include:

  • fast breathing or trouble breathing
  • bluish skin color
  • not drinking enough fluids
  • not waking up or not interacting
  • not urinating, or no tears when crying
  • severe and persistent vomiting
  • flu-like symptoms that improve but then return with fever and worse cough

Who is at higher risk for developing serious complications from flu?
People who are at higher risk of serious complications from influenza include:

  • pregnant women
  • people older than 65 or younger than 2
  • people with chronic medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes, or heart disease
  • people whose immune systems are suppressed due to medications or medical conditions

If a member of my family is sick with the flu, do I need to stay home from work?
No. You should stay home only if you get sick with flu-like symptoms (see "What should I do if I have flu symptoms?"). Human Resources at MIT can provide additional information on the Institute's policies regarding time off to care for a sick family member.

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