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cleveland
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Health

Adult Health
Flu and Pneumonia Hotline: (216) 664-4621
What is the flu? How serious is it?>What is the flu? How serious is it?

Influenza, also called the "flu," is a highly contagious respiratory infection.

Symptoms

Flu can cause fever, chills, headache, dry cough, runny or stuffy nose, sore throat, and muscle aches. Unlike other common respiratory infections such as the common cold, influenza can cause extreme fatigue lasting several days to more than a week. Although nausea, vomiting and diarrhea can sometimes accompany influenza infection, especially in children, gastrointestinal symptoms are rarely prominent. The illness that people often call "stomach flu" is not influenza.

Spread from person to person

Influenza is spread easily from person to person primarily when an infected person coughs or sneezes. After a person has been infected with the virus, symptoms usually appear within 2 to 4 days. The infection is considered often contagious for another 3 to 4 days after symptoms appear. Because of this, people used to think the flu was caused by the "influence of the stars and planets." In the 1500s, the Italians called the disease "influenza," their word for influence. Each year, an estimated 10 to 20 percent of the population contracts influenza.

Who should get a flu shot?
  • Adults 65 years of age and older
  • Persons with chronic heart or lung disorders (including asthma), or other chronic diseases
  • Residents of nursing homes and congregate living environments
  • Persons with diabetes or immune system disorders requiring regular medical follow-up
  • Pregnant women
  • Household members of all of the above, and all health care workers
  • Children and teenagers 6 months to 18 years of age on long-term aspirin treatment, who, if they catch influenza, could develop Reye's syndrome which causes coma, liver damage, and death
  • Health care workers (doctors, nurses, hospital and medical office staff, personnel of nursing homes or chronic care facilities) in contact with people in high-risk groups
  • Infants 6-35 months of age
Where can I get my flu and/or pneumonia shot?

The Cleveland Department of Public Health provides free flu shots to people over the age of 65, people over the age of 2 who have a chronic illness, and infants 6-35 months of age at various locations and dates.

Find out where to get a free flu shot

What is the charge for getting a flu and pneumonia shot?

Flu and pneumonia shots are free of charge for City of Cleveland residents.

Why should I get the flu shot?

  • The flu is serious business.Influenza (commonly called the flu) is not just a runny nose or upset stomach. It is a serious illness that can lead to pneumonia. At least 45,000 Americans die each year from influenza and pneumonia, the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. 90 percent of these deaths are among people 65 years of age or over.
  • The flu can be very dangerous for people 50 and older. People 50 years of age or over should get a flu shot, unless they are allergic to eggs. It's also important for those with a chronic illness, and for those who spend a lot of time around sick or elderly people.
  • A flu shot is safe and helps you protect others. Flu shots are safe and effective. And when you get a flu shot you help yourself and those around you. By avoiding the flu, you avoid giving it to friends and family.
  • The flu can make you "blue."
  • Even if you don't develop serious problems, the flu can make you feel bad for days. It can cause fever, chills, headache, cough and sore muscles.
  • It is free.
When should I get the flu shot?

Influenza is most common in the U.S. from December to April, so it's best to get the flu shot from October through January. The vaccine begins to protect you after 1 to 2 weeks.

Do I need a flu shot every year?

Yes. Although only a few different influenza viruses circulate at any given time, people continue to become ill with the flu throughout their lives. The reason for this continuing susceptibility is that influenza viruses are continually changing, usually as a result of mutations in the viral genes. Each year the vaccine is updated to include the most current influenza virus strains. The fact that influenza viruses continually change is one of the reasons vaccine must be taken every year. Another reason is that antibody produced by the person in response to the vaccine declines over time, and antibody levels are often low one year after vaccination.

If I have the flu, what do I do?

Once a person has the flu, treatment usually consists of resting in bed, drinking plenty of fluids, and taking medication such as aspirin or acetaminophen to relieve fever and discomfort. Children with the flu should not take aspirin because of the associated risk of a rare, but very serious illness called Reyes syndrome.

What is pneumonia and is it serious?

Pneumonia is an infection in the lungs. Pneumonia can be caused by a virus or bacteria.

Symptoms of pneumonia

Pneumonia can cause abrupt onset of a fever, chills, productive cough, pleuritic chest pain, shortness of breath, and rapid heart rate.

Yes, pneumonia is very serious. It is the fifth leading cause of death in adults every year. Each year there are 500,000 cases of pneumonia diagnosed. It is estimated that each year 50,000 people die from pneumonia; 50% of those deaths could have been prevented with a pneumonia shot.

How is it spread?

It is spread easily from person to person primarily when an infected person coughs or sneezes. After a person has been infected with the virus, symptoms usually appear within 2 to 4 days. The infection is considered contagious for another 3 to 4 days after symptoms appear.

Who should get a pneumonia shot?
  • People 65 years of age and older
  • People with chronic serious illnesses (such as cardiovascular disease, lung disease, and diabetes)
  • People with compromised immune systems
  • Health care workers
When should I get a pneumonia shot?

You can get a pneumonia shot any time of the year. It is a safe vaccine and can be given at the same time of a flu shot.

Do I need a pneumonia shot every year?

No, usually you only need one shot.
  • People 65 years of age and older: if this is your first shot, you do not need another shot.
  • People 65 years of age and older: if you received in a pneumonia shot before age 65, you get a booster dose after age 65. There has to be 5 years between the initial dose and the booster.
  • People 18-65 years of age: you should receive one shot and a booster shot at 65 years old. There should be 5 years between the initial shot and the booster shot.
Where can I get a pneumonia shot?

You can get a pneumonia shot at a CDPH flu and pneumonia clinic or from your physician.

Find out where to get a free pneumonia shot

What are some quick health tips for avoiding the flu or pneumonia?
  • Get a flu shot every year, especially if at high risk. If you are not eligible for vaccination, discuss anti-influenza A medications with your physician.
  • Get a pneumonia shot from your physician or at a CDPH flu and pneumonia clinic if you have not received one before, and are over 65.
  • Cover your mouth and nose while sneezing and coughing. Dispose of tissues properly. Wash hands frequently. Family members can transmit influenza to persons at high risk.
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