Every year, people are encouraged to get the flu shot, and every year, people avoid it. Some people, like me, just forget that it's even an option and by the time I remember, flu season is over.
Others will tell you vehemently that the shot made them sick and they will never get it again. And then, of course, there are the people who think flu shots are a big conspiracy from the pharmaceutical companies. Whatever your reasoning, flu shots are often looked over as a "well, if I don't get one it's not a big deal."
But this year's flu season could be even more dangerous from the last, and avoiding the shot could be deadly.
"Right now, flu activity is elevated and intense, and the CDC has classified the severity of this year's flu season as moderate," Lynnette Brammer, lead of the CDC's domestic influenza said.
This year, over 100 people have died from the flu, including 20 children.
"This year's flu season had an early start, with a lot of cases accumulating in the past month and more hospitalizations and deaths in certain regions of the country compared to last year — this is a tough year," Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), told Buzzfeed.
The rise in infections can be explained by the strain of virus that is predominant this year in the United States.
"Each flu season we usually see influenza A subtype H3N2 or H1N1, and one or more influenza B viruses," Dr. Fauci said. "When H3N2 is the predominant strain, that usually means it will be a severe flu season — H3N2 is inherently bad."
This year, approximately 82% of flu cases are H3N2, which is not good. Because this strain is more likely to cause flu-related symptoms, lead to hospitalization, and even cause death, it's extremely dangerous among the elderly and young kids.
"When we look at the rate of hospitalizations and deaths, the pattern is still holding true that it's killing mostly those who are 'high risk,' such as the elderly, immunosuppressed, and people with chronic health conditions," Fauci said.
The CDC recommends that anyone over the age of six months get the flu shot, even if you think it's too late.
"We could have a second wave of Influenza B after this H3N2 wave passes though, so there's still potential to benefit from the vaccine," Brammer said.
"Even when the shot fails to prevent disease and you get the flu, the shot can mitigate illness so you have a less severe, shorter course," Fauci echoes.
And no, the shot cannot give you the flu.
Have you gotten your flu shot this year?