Should you get a flu shot? According to public health officials, the answer is a resounding "Yes."
Earlier this week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) kicked off its annual flu vaccine campaign, urging everyone 6 months and older to get vaccinated against the influenza virus.
The sooner the better. In the U.S., flu viruses often begin to increase in October and November.
They spread mostly through the air by people's coughs or sneezes, causing miserable symptoms like a runny nose, high fever, sore throat, muscle pains, and fatigue.
And since it takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop in the body that protect against the flu, health officials say its important to get the shot ASAP in order to stay ahead of the virus.
We don't want to end up like Australia, which has had its worst flu season in at least 15 years.
The CDC recommends that people get a flu vaccine by the end of October, if possible. (Getting vaccinated later can still be beneficial though, the agency says.)
This year, it'll have to be the shot. The CDC says the nasal spray is not recommended because there are concerns that it's ineffective.
You can find a flu vaccine clinic near you here.
What to expect from this flu season
Health officials say it's next to impossible to predict how many Americans will get sick this flu season, because there are many different flu viruses and they are constantly changing
The vaccines that will be offered this year protect against 3-4 (depending on the vaccine) viruses that research suggests will be most common this season, the CDC says.
The CDC says the exact number of flu illnesses that occur each season is not known because flu is not a reportable disease and not everyone who gets sick with the flu seeks medical care or gets tested.
But the agency estimates we've had between 9.2 million and 35.6 million cases each year in the United States since 2010.
Those illnesses result in as many as 710,000 hospitalizations each year, the CDC says, and anywhere between 12,000 to 56,000 deaths.
Last year, the toll included 105 children.
In Minnesota, 3,952 people were hospitalized due to influenza, and there were two pediatric influenza-related deaths, according to the Department of Health.
Is there anyone that shouldn't get vaccinated?
Yes, babies under 6 months old.
It's recommended for everyone else – yep, even people who are allergic to eggs.
Vaccination is particularly important for people who are at high risk of serious complications from influenza – adults older than 65, young children, pregnant women and people with chronic medical conditions.
Last season, fewer than half of the U.S. population 6 months and older were vaccinated against the flu, the CDC says.
Officials say there are some myths that deter people from getting the vaccine – like the one that claims getting the vaccine will actually give you the flu. The CDC insists that's not possible.
People also question the vaccine's effectiveness. While vaccine effectiveness can vary, the CDC says, recent studies show they reduce the risk of flu by about 40 to 60 percent.
"The more people who get vaccinated, the more people will be protected from flu, including older people, very young children, pregnant women, and people with certain long-term health conditions who are more vulnerable to serious flu complications," the CDC says.
Read more popular misconceptions about the flu vaccine here.