Ask the Nurse: Why you need a flu shot every year
The flu is unpredictable. While flu outbreaks happen every year, the timing, severity and length of the flu season changes from one year to another. This is because the viruses that cause the flu are constantly shifting. Mary C. Brown, RN, MSN, CIC, Infection Preventionist at Aiken Regional, explains why adults and children should have a flu shot every year.
Q: Isn’t the flu just a bad cold?
No. The flu is much more serious. It is a highly contagious viral infection of the respiratory tract (nose, throat, and lungs) that usually comes on suddenly. In the U.S., more than 200,000 people are hospitalized for flurelated complications each year. Estimates of flu-associated deaths in the United States over a 30-year period range from a low of about 3,000 to a high of about 49,000 people. *
Q: Do I have to get vaccinated in the fall?
You should get vaccinated as soon as the vaccine becomes available in your community. The flu virus tends to spread from October to May, with most cases occurring in January or February. However, vaccinations can be given at any time during the flu season. Even getting a vaccination later in the season can still help protect you from influenza.
Q: Can I skip a few years between shots?
Many people don’t realize they need a new seasonal flu shot every year. Even if you've been good about getting flu shots for several years, you need to keep it up, because next year's flu could be very different. This is because the particular strains of flu that are dominant change every single year. So every single year, researchers have to develop a brand new vaccine.
Q: Do I need a seasonal flu vaccine if I’m healthy?
Healthy adults may forget that while they themselves might be at low risk for getting serious flu complications, other people in their family might not. If you have a small child at home, or an older parent, your failure to get yourself vaccinated could endanger them.
*Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
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