1) How many people die from the flu in the US every year?

a – 10,000

b – 50,000

c – 100,000


2) When does flu season start?

a – November

b – January

c – You can get the flu any time, but it’s most common in the winter.


3) Does getting flu vaccine prevent the flu?

a – Yes, 100%

b – It cuts your chance of getting the flu in half

c – It doesn’t work at all, it’s a scam


4) What parts of the body does the flu virus attack?

a – The respiratory tract: the airways in the nose, throat, and lungs

b – The stomach and intestines

c – The body overall: fever, muscle aches

d – The skin (a rash)

e – a and c


5) What is the commonest way people catch the flu?

a – Sitting near someone who has flu

b – Shaking hands with someone who has flu

c – Being within three feet of someone who has flu and is coughing or sneezing, and then breathing in drops of fluid from the cough or sneeze

d – Touching a contaminated surface like a doorknob, phone, or table, then touching your mouth

e – Picking up a tissue used by someone with flu


6) Which one of these is not a complication of the flu?

a – Pneumonia

b – Bronchitis

c – Sinus infection

d – Ear infection

e – Heart inflammation

f – Brain inflammation (encephalitis)

g – Broken bones

h – Multi-organ failure such as respiratory and kidney failure at the same time


7) Yes or no: Is the nasal spray flu vaccine available this year?


8) Why isn’t taking flu medicine (antiviral drug) as good as getting vaccinated?

a – There are often shortages of flu medicine at the height of flu season

b – You have to start the medicine within 48 yours of getting sick

c – Flu medicine costs much more than vaccine

d – Waiting and taking the medicine means you have to get the flu!

e – If you get the flu, you may infect people you love

f – Flu medicine does not cure the flu, it only makes the illness less severe and shortens sick time by one or two days

g – Flu medicines have side effects. They can cause nausea and vomiting, and can make headaches and psychiatric effects more likely. And in a recent study, flu medicine didn’t decrease the chance of serious complications (see question 6)

h – all of the above


9) Can you get the flu from a flu shot?

a – Yes

b – No

c – Sometimes


10) Who should get vaccinated to prevent the flu?



Answers (Don’t cheat!)


1) (b)Flu is not a minor illness. Every year, ten to 20% of all the people in the US are infected with flu, and more than 200,000 people are hospitalized because of flu. Since 2010, the flu has killed from 10,000 to 80,000 people every year in the U.S and 650,000 worldwide.


2) (c) Although you can get the flu anytime, in our Northern hemisphere the flu season starts in October and continues as late as April. In the US, it usually peaks in February. Last year’s flu season lasted 21 weeks, the longest in a decade.


3) (b) Getting the flu vaccine cuts the chance of getting the flu by half. The flu virus has different strains. Year to year, there are changes in which strains are commonest. The flu vaccine is re-designed every year based on which strains of flu were in the Southern hemisphere the season before. On average the vaccine is 50% effective. Some years it’s much better and some years worse.


4) (e) The flu mainly affects the respiratory tract and the immune system. Flu’s effects on the immune system can result in fever, muscle aches (the “run over by a truck” feeling), and decreased resistance to other infections like bacterial pneumonia. Although people sometimes use the term “stomach flu” for vomiting and diarrhea, the flu virus rarely affects the gut, and does not do so without the person having cough or runny nose as well. Flu also does not affect the skin.


5) (d) Surprisingly, the flu virus can live for 24 hours on a surface but only 15 minutes on a person’s hand or on a used tissue. Use a towel to touch doorknobs, or open swinging doors with your shoulder, not your hands. This will protect you from many other viral infections as well. Everyday preventive actions are important. Avoid people who are ill, and practice good hygiene such as washing your hands often and covering your cough. If you are sick, stay home.


6) (g) Flu does not cause broken bones. Complications of flu include bronchitis, pneumonia, sinus and ear infections as well as other, life-threatening conditions like inflammation of the heart or brain and multi-organ failure. Pneumonia is the most common cause of death related to the flu.


7) Yes. The nasal spray flu vaccine was taken off the market for several years because the virus strains in it did not match up with the viruses that were occurring in those years. The nasal spray vaccine has been made differently for 2019-20 and is expected to be as effective as the shot. This year, it is recommended for children over two and adults, but not for pregnant women or anyone with a weakened immune system. The nasal spray is more expensive than the shot.


8) (h)All of the above.


9)(b) No. Because there is no live virus in any type of flu shot, it is not possible to get an infection from it. When people get flu symptoms soon after getting the vaccination, is because they were already exposed to the flu before they got the shot.

There is live, weakened virus in the nasal vaccine. The nasal vaccine has not been known to cause illness but in theory could cause mild illness.


10) CDC recommends a yearly flu vaccination for everyone over age six months. You have a lot to gain and nothing to lose. Go get your flu shot now so it will be working by the time the flu season is at its worst.

Author Profile

Dr. Eva Hersh, MD
Dr. Eva Hersh, MD
Eva Hersh is a family physician. Send your comments and questions to her by email at dreva@baltimoreoutloud.com