Are People with HIV at High Risk for Serious Flu Illness?
Yes. People with HIV are at high risk of developing serious flu-related complications, especially people who have a very low CD4 cell count or who are not taking medicine to treat HIV (called antiretroviral therapy or ART).
What Is the Best Way to Prevent Flu?
The flu vaccine is the best way to protect you and your loved ones against the flu. If you are vaccinated, you are less likely to get the flu. And, if you do get sick, your illness will likely be milder, which helps keep you out of the hospital.
People living with HIV should get a flu shot every year. It can provide safe and effective immunity throughout the flu season.
People with HIV should receive the flu shot rather than the nasal spray. The shot does not contain live flu virus whereas the nasal spray contains flu virus that is alive but weakened. People with weakened immune systems may have a higher risk of complications from the nasal spray.
You cannot get the flu from the flu shot. You should tell your provider if you are allergic to eggs (since some vaccines are made with flu virus that is grown in eggs) or have had a bad reaction to other vaccines in the past before you receive the flu shot.
Use the Flu Vaccine Finder to find a flu vaccine in your area.
What Other Actions Can You Take to Prevent Getting or Spreading the Flu?
In addition to getting a flu shot every year, people living with HIV should take the same everyday actions CDC recommends for everyone. These include:
- avoiding people who are sick;
- staying home when you are sick;
- covering your coughs; and
- washing your hands often.
What Should You Do if You Think You Have the Flu?
If you get sick with flu symptoms call your doctor right away.
Flu symptoms include feeling feverish or having a fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. However, some people with the flu can have respiratory symptoms (such as a cough or runny nose) without a fever.
People experiencing difficulty breathing, shortness of breath, and other emergency warning signs should seek medical care right away.
There are prescription medications called antiviral drugs that can be used to treat flu illness and prevent serious flu complications.
CDC recommends that people at high risk for serious flu complications such as people living with HIV—especially those with low CD4 cell counts or not on ART—should get antiviral drugs as early as possible, because these drugs work best when started early (within 48 hours after symptoms start).
Flu and COVID-19
It is possible to have flu and COVID-19 at the same time. Health experts are still studying how common this can be. Some of the symptoms of flu and COVID-19 are similar, making it hard to tell the difference between them based on symptoms alone. Diagnostic testing can help determine if you are sick with flu or COVID-19. Learn more.
Remember, getting vaccinated is the single best way you can protect yourself against this serious illness.
Content derived from CDC’s Seasonal Influenza.