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Take your best shot

Influenza ("the flu") is a serious respiratory disease caused by influenza viruses that can cause mild to severe illness. Seasonal flu activity can begin as early as October and linger as late as May.

As always, your best defense against the flu is to get a flu shot.

During the 2017–2018 flu season, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that the flu was associated with nearly 49 million illnesses, more than 22 million medical visits, nearly 1 million hospitalizations and nearly 80,000 deaths in the U.S.

Who needs a vaccination?

The CDC recommends that everyone 6 months and older—including pregnant women and people with chronic health conditions—be vaccinated against the flu.

It's especially important that people at high risk for getting complications from the flu—such as pneumonia—get the vaccine.

And there's good news for people who previously could not get a flu shot because they're allergic to eggs, which are used to manufacture vaccines. Multiple flu vaccines are made without using eggs (Flucelvax is one) and have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for adults 18 and older.

Because flu viruses are always changing, new vaccines must be designed annually. That's why you need a new flu shot every year.

If you're still on the fence about whether to get a flu shot, think about this: When you get vaccinated, you help protect those around you who are most vulnerable to the flu, including babies too young to get a flu shot.

Help prevent the spread of flu

Getting vaccinated doesn't guarantee you won't get the flu, though it may make the flu milder if you do get sick. For added protection from the flu:

Use good manners. Always cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze (try to cough into your sleeve). If you use a tissue when you cough or sneeze, throw the tissue away and wash your hands.

Scrub away germs. Wash your hands often with soap and warm water for 30 seconds. That's roughly how long it takes to sing "Happy Birthday" twice. If soap and water aren't handy, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

Keep your hands away from your face. The most common way to catch the flu is to touch your eyes, nose or mouth with germy hands.

Sanitize surfaces. Disinfect any surface or object that might be contaminated with flu germs.

Keep your distance. Try not to get too close to anyone who has the flu.

If you get sick with a flu-like illness, stay home until your fever has been gone for 24 hours without taking a fever-reducing medicine.

Who is most vulnerable to the flu?

  • Adults over the age of 65.
  • People who are immunocompromised, such as those with HIV, hepatitis and cancer.
  • People who live with or care for the immunocompromised or elderly.
  • Pregnant women.
  • People with chronic medical conditions, such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease and lung disease.
  • People with symptoms such as fever, sore throat, runny nose or vomiting may already be carrying it.
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