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Health

Why You Should Get a Flu Shot This Year

Flickr/CDC Global

Ah, October — the month of pumpkin spice lattes, hay rides, haunted houses, apple bobbing, decorative gourds, and candy corn. 

While Fall brings with it the excitement of leaves a-falling, hot cocoa a-brewing, and the prospect of carolers a-caroling, it also has one potentially-deadly complication: influenza. 

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In the US alone, anywhere from 5% to 20% of the population (or 15 million to 60 million) will be diagnosed with influenza, otherwise known as the flu, each year. 

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Of these, 3,000 to 49,000 Americans, primarily above the age of 65, will die from flu-related complications, WebMD has reported

Around the world, an estimated 250,000 to 500,000 people die each year from influenza, according to the World Health Organization.

The simplest way to avoid this fate? A flu shot. 

The flu shot works to kill of influenza by injecting an inactivated strain of already-killed virus into the bloodstream. Contrary to the urban myth that getting a flu shot can “cause” you to get sick, the shot works by helping the recipient develop flu-killing antibodies.  

Read More: France Will Make Vaccines Mandatory for Kids in 2018

As the Mayo Clinic explains: 

“Because the viruses in this vaccine are killed (inactivated), the shot won't cause you to get the flu, but it will enable your body to develop the antibodies necessary to ward off influenza viruses.”

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Still, only two in five Americans got the flu shot last year, despite its ready availability and relatively inexpensive cost — even for those without health insurance. Around the world, however, flu shots are less readily available and calls for vaccination are not sounded off as loudly as they are in the US

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You can also read our nine reasons to get a flu shot this year, below: 

1/ You’ll cut your probability of getting sick in half. 

The flu vaccination is nowhere near 100% effective, but studies have shown that getting a flu shot will reduce the probability of getting the flu by anywhere from 40% to 60%, according to the CDC

Because the prevalence of the flu and the type of strain varies from year to year, the effectiveness of the vaccination is known to fluctuate, as well. 

With that in mind, researchers at Oxford University’s Jenner Institute are working to develop a universal flu vaccine that would be the first ever to protect against all types of the virus. 

2/ Getting sick is expensive. Getting a flu shot is not. 

Cold medicine, tissue boxes, soup, Netflix subscriptions, lost productivity — getting sick can be expensive, especially for the one in three Americans who don’t get any sick paid leave. Flu shots, which are available at schools, doctor’s offices, and pharmacies across the country and around the world, are often free and only run around $20 for those who are uninsured in the US. 

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The Affordable Care Act requires insurance companies to cover flu shots without charging a copayment

3/ You don’t want to end up in the hospital. 

Each year, an estimated 200,000 Americans end up hospitalized for influenza, or complications related to the illness. 

4/ If everybody gets vaccinated, nobody will get sick. 

“If we all get immunizations, of course we can’t spread the virus elsewhere so we’re all protected from it.”

That’s how Joseph DeVeau, M.D., a primary care physician at Piedmont Physicians Group, explains the concept of “herd immunity,” which is the idea that if everyone in a community gets vaccinated, nobody will get sick. 

Read More: WTF Is Polio? 17 Facts About the Disease That We’re This Close to Eradicating

The flu is easily transmitted between people, as it is can be contracted through a sneeze, cough, or simple touch. Getting a flu shot is the easiest way to exonerate yourself from blame when your friends and family get sick. 

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5/ It can complicate a pregnancy. 

Flu shots are especially important for expecting mothers, according to the blog What To Expect. Pregnant women are more susceptible to getting sick because pregnancies can weaken a woman’s immune system, the site reports. Getting the flu can even lead to premature labor and delivery, hospitalization, and in rare cases, death. 

6/ The flu increases risk of a heart attack. 

According to a recent study by The Journal of the American Medical Association, adults were 36% less likely to have a heart attack if they receive the flu vaccine. This is because the bodily inflammation caused by the flu can lead to blood clots, which can in turn lead to a heart attack or stroke, the Huffington Post reports.  

7/ An influenza pandemic could devastate developing countries. 

In 2009, a strain of influenza that became known as “swine flu” swept around the world, killing more than 200,000 and leading the WHO to raise a “level 5” pandemic alert.  

Future pandemics could be far more deadly. 

Read More: Why the Bird Flu Is Really a Harbinger for the Next Global Pandemic

The CDC has warned that a future influenza pandemic could kill as many as 62 million around the world, with 96% of deaths coming in developing countries. 

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This type of devastating pandemic would be unlike anything the world has seen since the Black Death. So, if for no other reason, don’t get a flu shot for yourself, get it for the world.