Monday, December 6, 2010

Getting a flu vaccine is a safe way to prevent serious illness

For millions of people each year, the flu can bring a runny nose, cough, muscle aches, sore throat, fever, chills, and miserable days spent in bed instead of at work or school. However, you may not realize that it’s estimated that more than 200,000 people end up in the hospital from flu complications each year. And while unpredictable, the flu can be deadly. Between 1976 and 2007, US CDC estimates that annual flu-associated deaths in the United States have ranged from between about 3,000 people to about 49,000 people.

But there’s a safe alternative to getting the flu—getting the flu vaccine. The vaccine is a safe way to protect yourself from the flu and its potentially serious complications.

This season, health experts across the country are recommending that everyone 6 months and older get a flu vaccine. This “universal” flu vaccine recommendation was adopted by the CDC's Advisory Committee for Immunization Practices (ACIP), an independent group of physicians and health advocates that sets recommendations for all adult and childhood immunizations in the United States.

Over the years, the number of people recommended for flu vaccination has grown as experts learned more about who was at highest risk for flu complications or who was bearing the greatest burden of illness and possibly playing a role in spreading flu in the community. With the official universal vaccination recommendation, ACIP and the medical community are acknowledging the risk that everyone faces from the flu.

This year’s flu vaccines are being made using the same production and safety methods that have been standard for decades, during which hundreds of millions of flu vaccines have been given safely. The most common side effects from flu shots have been soreness, redness, or tenderness where the shot was given; fever; and aches. Some people who have gotten the nasal-spray flu vaccine, in use over the past seven years, have had runny nose, cough, or nasal congestion. Neither the flu shot nor the nasal-spray vaccine can give you the flu.

Every year, US CDC works closely with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), health care providers, state and local health departments, and other partners to ensure the highest safety standards for all flu vaccines. CDC and FDA both share responsibility for monitoring the safety of vaccines and ensuring systems are in place to promptly detect unexpected health problems following vaccination.

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