Thinking of skipping a flu shot this year? The researcher who leads the effort to find an effective vaccine for the influenza virus strongly urges you to reconsider.
"People think, well, it’s just the flu," explains Dr. Gregory Poland, head of Mayo Clinic’s Vaccine Research Group. "In the U.S. alone last year, 80,000 Americans died from influenza and its complications, and almost a million were hospitalized. That’s a huge burden of disease — much of it preventable by flu vaccine."
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That’s why Dr. Poland recommends everyone over the age of 6 months get a vaccination and the protection it offers from the virus and its complications.
"Influenza can cause respiratory sinusitis, pneumonia, meningitis and other complications," explains Dr. Poland. "For people that have other medical conditions like heart disease, it can lead to a heart attack, a stroke. For diabetics, their diabetes can go out of control."
Dr. Poland stresses, a vaccination shot cannot give you the flu. It also cannot stop every case of it. However, you still should get one.
"You don’t want to wait till you get an infection and disease and, then, say, 'Well, now I’ll treat it,'" says Dr. Poland. "The much-preferred thing, recommended by every professional body in the U.S., is get a flu vaccine every year.
Even when it’s not 100 percent effective in preventing symptoms, you’re still preventing the major complications."