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Influenza is now widespread in many areas of the U.S. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says activity is now "elevated" with millions of Americans affected.
The most effective way to prevent influenza is to get an annual flu shot. Along with preventing illness, benefits of the flu shot include reducing the length and severity of illness, risk of hospitalization and risk of flu-related death in children. Unfortunately, there are some who refuse to vaccinate.
"Vaccine hesitancy", or reluctancy to get vaccinated, has been called one of the top 10 major health threats by the World Health Organization. "This is a very complex topic," says Dr. Gregory Poland, director of the Mayo Clinic Vaccine Research Group. "There have always been people against vaccines or hesitant about vaccines. I believe that most people are just concerned about their health and they want to do the right thing. They’re misinformed."
Watch: Dr. Gregory Poland discusses vaccine hesitancy.
Journalists: Broadcast-quality sound bites with Dr. Gregory Poland are in the downloads at the end of the post. Please 'Courtesy: Mayo Clinic News Network.'
Dr. Poland says he is concerned by the amount of misinformation being shared. "They are listening to celebrities with no scientific training or listening to their next-door neighbor who's telling them about anecdote or they have unusual ways of cognitively processing information."
For those who worry that about getting flu from the vaccine, Dr. Poland says: "There is no evidence for this. It's in fact impossible, and there is no risk of getting influenza because of taking the flu shot. It is exactly the opposite. By getting the flu shot, you're preventing the development of influenza."
"This is a disease we can prevent, and we need to prevent it. Last year, an estimated 900,000 Americans were hospitalized due to influenza, and 80,000 died," says Dr. Poland.
The CDC recommends everyone 6 months and older get an annual flu vaccine. Other preventive measures include frequent hand-washing with warm soapy water, staying away from those who are sick, and, if you do get sick, staying home from school or work.
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