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Influenza (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 the flu is by getting a flu vaccination each year. 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. Some people, such as older people, young children, and people with certain health conditions (such as asthma, diabetes, or heart disease), are at high risk for serious flu complications.
The single best way to prevent the flu is to get a flu vaccination each year. There are two types of vaccines:
The "flu shot" – an inactivated vaccine (containing killed virus) that is given with a needle. The flu shot is approved for use in people 6 months of age and older, including healthy people and people with chronic medical conditions.
The nasal-spray flu vaccine – a vaccine made with live, weakened flu viruses that do not cause the flu (sometimes called LAIV for “Live Attenuated Influenza Vaccine”). LAIV is approved for use in healthy* people 2-49 years of age who are not pregnant.
Some people should not be vaccinated without first consulting a physician. They include:
People who have a severe allergy to chicken eggs.
People who have had a severe reaction to an influenza vaccination in the past.
People who developed Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) within 6 weeks of getting an influenza vaccine previously.
Children less than 6 months of age (influenza vaccine is not approved for use in this age group).
People who have a moderate or severe illness with a fever should wait to get vaccinated until their symptoms lessen.
If you have questions about whether you should get a flu vaccine, consult your health-care provider.
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. www.cdc.gov
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