According to the CDC, as many as 168 million doses of the flu shot, also known as an injectable influenza vaccine, could be administer in the United States this year. Where will thousands of those used needles go?

Madison Environmental Resourcing Inc. (MERI) has been working with colleges, corporate office parks, skilled nursing centers, hospitals and traveling nurses throughout the Midwest to make sure needles from flu injections are properly disposed, either through MERI’s regulated medical waste pickup or sharps mailback program.

In the process of our MERI employees get their flu shots, here’s what we learned:

Tis the Flu Season

Even though 2016’s National Influenza Vaccination Week officially kicks off until December 4-10, flu shots are being administed now as flu cases are often reported as early as October. Flu season peaks between December and February and lasts as late as May.

If flu viruses are spreading, it’s never too late to get your vaccine, even if you’ve already gotten sick with one flu virus. Depending on the type you get, you are protected from three to four flu strains for approximately six months after you’ve been vaccinated.

Use Injection Not Nasal Spray

During 2016-2017, the nasal spray flu vaccine (live attenuated influenza vaccine or LAIV) vaccine is not being recommended to combat the flu virus. Instead, the CDC recommends using the flu shot (inactivated influenza vaccine or IIV) and the recombinant influenza vaccine (RIV).

Anyone who had to deal with the affects of the flu can tell you it’s worth taking a few moments, or overcoming a fear of needles, to get yourself, and your loved ones, vaccinated.

It’s especially important to get young children, pregnant women, people with certain chronic health conditions like asthma, diabetes, heart disease or lung disease, and people aged 65 years and older vaccinated, as they are at high risk of having severe complications from the flu. This can include bacterial pneumonia, ear infections, sinus infections, dehydration, and worsening of chronic medical conditions, such as congestive heart failure, asthma, or diabetes that can lead to hospitalization or death.

Difference Between a Cold and Flu

You likely have a cold if you are tired and gradually feel a runny nose, sore throat, cough, sneezing jag, or headache coming on.

On the other hand, you probably have the flu if your symptoms come on suddenly, are more severe, you’re extremely tired or often are going to the bathroom to get sick.

A cold is a hassle. The flu can be deadly, especially when one’s immune system is compromised. While it is still very difficult to distinguish the flu from other viruses on the basis of symptoms alone, there are tests available, if needed, to find the answer.

Click here for this handy difference between a cold and flu chart.

How Do You Avoid Getting a Cold or Flu?

Mom was right when she pleaded “Wash Your Hands!”

To avoid picking up a cold or influenza virus, wash your hands often and thoroughly with warm soap and water, or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Avoid touching your nose, eyes, and mouth, and try to stay away from anyone who is experiencing symptoms of a cold or flu, as they can expel tiny droplets of the virus in the air, or on a table surface.

Another way to avoid getting sick is to make sure you get plenty of sleep, eat lots of fruits and vegetables, drink plenty of water, and manage your stress levels through regular exercise and meditative breathing.

Most importantly, to avoid the flu, take a moment to get your flu shot to #FightFlu!

And, if you need assistance with removing needles after a flu clinic, please give Lisa or Caleb a call at 608-257-7652 or email us at