There are several common myths about flu, including:
Myth #1: Influenza is merely a nuisance.
False. Influenza is a major cause of illness and death in the United States and leads to about 36,000 deaths and 114,000 hospitalizations per year.
Myth #2: Flu shots cause the flu.
False. The licensed injectable flu vaccine used in the United States, which is made from inactivated or killed flu viruses, cannot cause the flu and does not cause flu illness.
Myth #3: The Flu vaccine often doesn't work.
Not true. There are many strains of flu viruses. Immunologists study flu outbreaks to determine which strains are most likely to appear each year, and develop vaccines for these particular strains. Flu shots are very effective when the strains in the vaccine are similar to those circulating in the population.
People may think the influenza vaccine doesn't work for several reasons. People who have received a flu vaccination may become sick from a different virus that causes respiratory illness and is mistaken for flu; the flu shot only prevents illness caused by the influenza virus. In addition, protection from the vaccine is not 100 percent effective. Studies of healthy young adults have shown flu vaccine to be 70—90 percent effective in preventing the flu. In the elderly and those with certain long-term medical conditions, the flu shot is often less effective in preventing illness, however, in the elderly, flu vaccine is very effective in reducing hospitalizations and deaths from flu-related causes.
Myth #4: There is no need to get a flu vaccine every year.
False. Flu viruses change constantly. Generally, new influenza virus strains circulate every flu season, so the vaccine is modified each year, necessitating re-vaccination.