The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. It can cause mild to severe illness and at times can lead to death. The best way to prevent this illness is by getting a flu vaccination each fall.
Every year in the United States, on average: 5% to 20% of the population gets the flu; More than 200,000 people are hospitalized from flu complications, and; about 36,000 people die from flu.
How do Vaccines Work
Immunization (vaccination) is a way to trigger your immune system and prevent serious, life-threatening diseases. Immunization exposes you to a very small, very safe amount of the most important diseases you are likely to encounter at some point in your life.
This mild exposure helps your immune system recognize and attack the disease efficiently. If you are exposed to the full-blown disease later in life, you will either not become infected or have a much less serious infection. This is a natural way to deal with infectious diseases.
Who Should Get the Flu Shot?
In general, anyone who wants to reduce their chances of getting the flu can get vaccinated. However, certain people should get vaccinated each year. They are either people who are at high risk of having serious flu complications or people who live with or care for those at high risk for serious complications. People who should get vaccinated each year are:
People who should get vaccinated each year are:
- People at high risk for complications from the flu:
- People 65 years and older;
- People who live in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities that house those with long-term illnesses;
- Adults and children 6 months and older with chronic heart or lung conditions, including asthma;
- Adults and children 6 months and older who needed regular medical care or were in a hospital during the previous year because of a metabolic disease (like diabetes), chronic kidney disease, or weakened immune system (including immune system problems caused by medicines or by infection with human immunodeficiency virus [HIV/AIDS]);
- Children 6 months to 18 years of age who are on long-term aspirin therapy. (Children given aspirin while they have influenza are at risk of Reye syndrome.);
- Women who will be pregnant during the influenza season;
- All children 6 to 23 months of age;
- People with any condition that can compromise respiratory function or the handling of respiratory secretions (that is, a condition that makes it hard to breathe or swallow, such as brain injury or disease, spinal cord injuries, seizure disorders, or other nerve or muscle disorders.)
- People 50 to 64 years of age. Because nearly one-third of people 50 to 64 years of age in the United States have one or more medical conditions that place them at increased risk for serious flu complications, vaccination is recommended for all persons aged 50 to 64.
- People who can transmit flu to others at high risk for complications. Any person in close contact with someone in a high-risk group (see above) should get vaccinated. This includes all health-care workers, household contacts and out-of-home caregivers of children 6 to 23 months of age, and close contacts of people 65 years and older.