Flu shot facts, side effects

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Seasonal flu shots are recommended for everyone ages 6 months and older, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The seasonal flu shot is a yearly vaccine administered to protect against the flu, or influenza.
In the United States, flu shots are recommended for everyone ages 6 months and older, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The flu can be a very serious illness, especially in young children, adults ages 65 and over, those with underlying health conditions, and pregnant women. The flu shot is the best way to protect yourself and family from the flu, the CDC says.
Strains of the flu virus are constantly changing, so a new flu vaccine is made each year. Scientists make the vaccine before flu season starts by predicting which flu strains are likely to be the most common during the upcoming season. “Since the flu virus frequently drifts in its genetic composition, you have to reformate the vaccine, and this is one of the reason that people have to [get a flu shot] on an annual basis,” said Dr. William Schaffner, a preventive medicine and infectious disease expert at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.
Flu activity has been moderate so far this season, according to a recent report from the CDC. The report found that flu activity in the U.S. started to increase around mid-December 2016, and remained elevated as of early February 2017, when the researchers gathered the information for the report.
From Jan. 29 to Feb. 4, the percentage of patients visiting the doctor for flu-like symptoms was 4.8 percent, the report found. That’s well above the “national baseline” for flu visits — the threshold for what’s typically seen in the off-season — which is 2.2 percent.
In addition, the hospitalization rate for the flu this season is 24 hosptialization per 100,000 people, the report said. That’s much higher than the hospitalization rate for the flu that occurred around this time last year (during February 2016), when there were about 2 hospitalizations per 100,000 people. But it’s lower than the hospitalization rate during the 2014 to 2015 season, which was about 36 per 100,000 people around this time of year. The predominate flu strain circulating this season is H3N2, which tends to cause more severe flu seasons, with more hospitalizations and deaths from the flu, compared with seasons when other strains predominate, according to the CDC. Flu shots protect against three or four strains of flu virus.

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