“It’s just the flu.” Those can be dangerous words, particularly when flu season is beginning. Influenza, or the flu, is a potentially life-threatening disease, which is contracted each year by 5 to 20 percent of the U.S. population, or 16 to 63 million people. That’s a huge number, but preventing the spread of the flu really starts with just one person – you. Now is the time for you to get vaccinated, to protect yourself and those you love.

A viral problem

Each year, influenza and its related complications (including pneumonia) result in approximately 226,000 hospitalizations. Depending on virus severity, deaths can range from 3,000 to 49,000 people. Flu season in the United States can begin as early as October and usually peaks around January or February.

“Depending on virus severity, deaths can range from 3,000 to 49,000 people.”

Vaccination is the best way to protect yourself and reduce spread of the flu. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone 6 months of age and older get an annual influenza vaccination. Why get vaccinated every year? The influenza virus is constantly changing, so each year, a new vaccine is made based on which strains of the virus are projected to cause the most illness.

Doing your part

When you are immunized, you not only protect yourself, but you help protect those around you by limiting the spread of the disease. That means when you get your flu shot, you are protecting people who can’t, like babies who are too young.

Vaccination is especially important for pregnant women, people 50 years of age and older, and those with chronic health conditions, including asthma and COPD, as they are at a higher risk of developing influenza-related complications. It’s also recommended that you get immunized as soon as vaccine is available in your area, and not to wait until later in the flu season.

We are all at risk for getting and spreading the flu. Stopping it begins with you.