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Which vaccinations should adults get? If you answered, “I don’t know,” don’t worry – you’re not alone. A new national survey of adults in the United States reveals that more than two-thirds don’t know which vaccinations they need beyond just the flu shot. Adults need vaccinations not only to protect themselves from serious diseases but also to prevent spreading illnesses to their family, friends and other loved ones. Millions of Americans get sick from diseases that can be prevented by vaccines each year, causing them to miss work and leaving them unable to care for those who depend on them, including children and aging parents.

Even though many diseases can now be prevented by vaccines, there are still nearly 1 million cases of shingles (which is caused by the chickenpox virus) in the United States every year, and almost one out of three people will develop shingles in their lifetime. Also, cases of whooping cough have increased significantly within the last year – there have been 26,000 cases of whooping cough reported in the United States as of early September, which is more than twice as many reported at this time last year.

Specific vaccines include the following:

* Flu – Protects against influenza (also known as the flu), which is a contagious respiratory illness

* Pneumococcal – Protects against pneumococcus, which can cause several infections, such as pneumonia

* Varicella – Protects against chickenpox

* Herpes zoster – Protects against shingles, which is caused by the chickenpox virus

* Tdap – Protects against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (also known as whooping cough), which is a highly contagious respiratory tract infection

* HPV – Protects against human papillomavirus, which is a sexually transmitted infection that can cause common conditions, such as warts, as well as more serious diseases, such as cervical cancer

* MMR – Protects against measles, mumps and rubella (also known as German measles)

* Meningitis – Protects against meningococcal disease, which is a serious bacterial illness that can cause bacterial meningitis

* Hepatitis A – Protects against hepatitis A virus infection, which causes a liver disease

* Hepatitis B – Protects against hepatitis B virus infection, which also causes a liver disease

New guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that everyone older than six months old should receive a flu shot every year. Each year in the United States, one in five people (about 20 percent of the population) is infected with the flu. Getting vaccinated against the flu is important because it is a serious disease that can lead to hospitalization and sometimes even death. Additionally, getting vaccinated with Tdap at least two weeks before coming into close contact with an infant is especially important for families with and caregivers of new infants.

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