Influenza (Flu)

woman on couch blowing nose into tissue

Stay healthy this flu season!  Get your flu shot today!

Influenza (flu) is a respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses that infect the nose, throat and sometimes the lungs. The flu spreads easily and can cause mild to severe illness, at times may even lead to death. The best way to prevent flu, and stay healthy, is by getting a flu vaccine (shot) each year.

This year, it’s more important than ever to get vaccinated against the flu. The flu vaccine can keep you, your family, and your friends from getting the flu and help keep our hospitals from being overwhelmed. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends everyone aged six months and older to get a flu vaccine, especially through the winter months when the flu is most likely to spread. An annual flu vaccine is the best way to reduce your chances of getting the seasonal flu and spreading it to others. For more than 50 years, hundreds of millions of Americans have safely received seasonal flu vaccines.

Talk to your doctor about vaccinations that are right for you. Molina members can get their flu shot at no cost. Contact your primary care provider, pharmacy or find a clinic event in your area.

Are vaccinations safe?
Vaccines are safe and effective. Since vaccines are given to millions of healthy people to prevent serious diseases, they are held to very high safety standards. Every licensed and recommended vaccine goes through years of safety testing, including:

  • Testing and evaluations are done before the vaccine is licensed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and recommended for use by the CDC 
  • Monitoring the vaccine’s safety after it is recommended for infants, children, or adults

The government tests every vaccine before approving it for use. They continue to monitor its safety if the vaccine is in use.

For help scheduling an appointment, call our Member Services department:

Apple Health (Medicaid): (800) 869-7165 (TTY 711), 7:30 a.m. – 6:30 p.m., local time
Marketplace: (888) 858-3492 (TTY 711), 8:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m., local time
Medicare: (800) 665-1029 (TTY 711), 7 days a week, 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., local time

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What is influenza?
Influenza (flu) is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses that infect the nose, throat and lungs.
There are two main types of influenza (flu) viruses: types A and B. The influenza A and B viruses that routinely spread in people (human influenza viruses) are responsible for seasonal flu epidemics each year.

Who can get the flu?
Anyone who has been in close contact with someone who has the flu is at risk. Some people, such as people 65 years and older, young children, and people with certain health conditions, are at higher risk of serious flu complications.  

How does the flu spread?
Flu viruses spread mainly by droplets made when people with flu cough, sneeze or talk. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby (usually within about 6 feet away) or possibly be inhaled into the lungs. Less often, a person might get flu by touching a surface or object that has flu virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose or eyes.

When are people with the flu contagious?
Flu viruses can be detected in most infected people beginning one day before symptoms develop and up to five to seven days after becoming sick. People with flu are most contagious in the first three to four days after their illness starts. However, infants and people with weakened immune systems who have flu viruses may be contagious for longer than seven days.

Symptoms most often start about two days (but can range from one to four days) after flu viruses infect a person’s respiratory tract. It is possible that before symptoms start, an infected person can spread flu viruses to their close contacts. Some people can be infected with flu viruses and have no symptoms but may still be able to spread the virus to their close contacts.

Is the flu deadly?
Globally, hundreds of thousands of people die from the seasonal flu each year. Risk of death is higher in at risk people such as people 65 years and older, young children, and people with underlying health conditions. Flu vaccination can greatly reduce risk of death from flu. Ask your doctor if the flu shot is right for you.

What are the symptoms of the flu?
Flu symptoms include:

  • Fever or feeling feverish
  • Chills
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • Fatigue (tiredness)
  • Vomiting and diarrhea

When should I get tested for the flu?
If you think you have the flu or have had close personal contact with someone who has the flu, you should contact your doctor. To limit the spread of the virus, your doctor may provide telehealth care for you over the phone or ask you not to sit in the clinic waiting area. 

What should I do if I have symptoms?
  • Stay isolated if you have a fever, sore throat, nasal congestion or cough. Only go out to see a doctor or for an emergency. Avoid public transportation.
  • If you must leave isolation, wear a well-fitting mask.

How can the flu be prevented?
The best way to reduce your risk from seasonal flu and its potentially serious complications is to get vaccinated each year. Ask our doctor if the flu shot is right for you. 

Also, avoid close contact with people who are sick, isolate from others when you are sick, cover your nose and mouth, clean your hands regularly, and avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.

What treatments are available for the flu?
If you get sick with flu, there are antiviral drugs may that can be prescribed by your doctor. When treatment is started within 1-2 days after flu symptoms start, influenza antiviral drugs can lessen symptoms and shorten the time you are sick by 1 or 2 days. They might also prevent some flu complications, like pneumonia. For people at higher risk of serious flu complications, treatment with influenza antiviral drugs can mean the difference between milder or more serious illness possibly resulting in a hospital stay.

Is there a vaccine to prevent the flu?
Flu vaccines cause antibodies to develop in the body about two weeks after vaccination. These antibodies provide protection against flu illness.

Seasonal flu vaccines are designed to protect against the flu viruses that research shows will be most common during the upcoming season. All flu vaccines in the United States are “quadrivalent” vaccines, which means they protect against four different flu viruses: an influenza A(H1N1) virus, an influenza A(H3N2) virus, and two influenza B viruses. 

Even if you had the flu, it is advised that you still get the flu vaccine. It can help to prevent a second or more serious infection.

Additional Information
Influenza signs and symptoms:
Influenza Treatment:
CDC Influenza FAQ: 
Influenza Vaccine Finder: