The aches, pains, chills, and fever you experience when infected with the flu are no joke—but getting the flu vaccine can help.

By Stacey Leasca
Updated October 11, 2018

Doctors at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention want you to know those aches, pains, chills, and fever you experience when infected with the flu are no joke.

During a sternly worded news conference this week, Daniel Jernigan, MD, the CDC’s flu division director, warned everyone that this year’s flu cycle may be as deadly as the last.

According to Jernigan and the CDC, last season’s flu epidemic killed 80,000 people. It put an additional 900,000 people into the hospital. And that number is staggering when you consider the average flu season kills between 12,000 and 56,000 people.

There is, however, one way to prevent the flu from spreading: Getting vaccinated. (And no, you can't get the flu from the flu shot.)

“Those 80,000 people who died from flu last year? Guess what? They got it from someone. Someone gave them the flu,” Surgeon General Jerome Adams, MD, said during the news conference.

Of those who died, 180 were children.

“The majority of them were unvaccinated,” Dr. Adams told NBC. “It’s healthy kids out there that are dying from the flu.”

To help get the message out, Dr. Adams got his flu shot right then and there during the conference.

“I’m getting vaccinated, so hang with me because I might cry,” Dr. Adams said with a laugh. But he did have another message for anyone who doesn’t get vaccinated. And that is, if you get sick please stay away from other people so you don’t infect others.

“If you’re sick, stay home,” Dr. Adams said. “Employers, tell your employees if they’re sick, stay home.”

And though the flu shot cannot protect you against every strain of the virus, it can still help save your life in the long-run.

“Even if you get flu after having received the vaccine … you are likely to benefit by having a less severe illness,” William Schaffner, MD, medical director for the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases, added at the conference. “As a doctor, I love it when my patients don’t get pneumonia or have to get admitted to the hospital. No one wants to be what I call the dreaded spreader.”

As for who should get the vaccine, the CDC recommends it for all children over six months of age, older adults, pregnant women, and those who have a weakened immune system due to illness. Here’s everything else you need to know about why — and when — to get your flu shot.