Traveling during the holidays? Get your flu shot to avoid germs

Is this year's vaccine a good match? Who needs it?


Are you planning to travel this holiday season? If so, the CDC highly recommends that you get your flu shot in order to avoid spreading or catching germs from other travelers.

Getting the flu shot in general is highly recommended to keep yourself safe from getting the flu this season.

However, people who plan to travel may have a greater risk of being exposed to germs given the close contact with large amounts of people who plan on getting on a plane, bus, or train.

Key statistics about this year’s flu season:

• On average, about 5-20 percent of Americans will get the flu each year

• About 200,000 Americans are hospitalized each year because of problems with the illness.

• Peak flu season: December to February

• There are about 171 million to 179 million flu vaccine doses expected to be available in the U.S. for the 2015-2016 flu season.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO), the most effective way to prevent the flu or the associated complications from the illness is through vaccination.

Who should get the flu shot? According to the CDC, the flu shot is available for anyone from aged six months and older. There are even flu shots available for pregnant women. Those who should not get the flu shot include children younger than six months and people with severe, life-threatening allergies to flu vaccine or any ingredient in the vaccine.

Facts about the flu:

What is it? The flu, or influenza, is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses that infect the nose, throat, and lungs.

It can cause mild-to- severe illness, and sometimes death. Serious cases of the flu can result in complications such as pneumonia, encephalitis, seizures and meningitis, which can lead to hospitalization or even death.

How does it spread? The flu is mainly spread from person to person through respiratory droplets produced by an infected person who coughs, sneezes, or talks. These droplets can end up in the mouths or noses of people close by. You can also catch the flu by touching a surface or object that has bacteria from the flu virus on it, then touching your eyes, nose or mouth.

People with the flu often feel some or all of the following usually mild symptoms:

• Mainly headache and sore throat

• Sometimes fever, or feeling feverish/chills (If present, usually 102-106)

• Cough

• Runny or stuffy nose

• Muscle or body aches

• Fatigue

• Sometimes vomiting and diarrhea

Symptoms usually appear within four days after exposure and usually last about four to seven days. The flu can be highly contagious; people are often most contagious for about one to four days, two days on average. 

Who is at risk? Those who have the highest risk of catching the flu include the elderly, children, sick people with weak immune systems (especially those with asthma, diabetes, or heart disease) and pregnant women.

Dr. Samadi is a board-certified urologic oncologist trained in open and traditional and laparoscopic surgery and is an expert in robotic prostate surgery. He is chairman of urology, chief of robotic surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital and professor of urology at Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine. He is a medical correspondent for the Fox News Channel's Medical A-Team and the chief medical correspondent for am970 in New York City. Learn more at Visit Dr. Samadi's blog at Follow Dr. Samadi on Twitter and Facebook.