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As the days get cooler, more and more people are spending time indoors, which means being around more people. It also means a better chance at catching influenza. But before you spread it to your family and coworkers, why not try to prevent the flu bug's visit by getting vaccinated?
Flu vaccines have been available since August and the Centers for Disease Control estimates between 143 million and 146 million doses will be produced for the 2008-09 influenza season. This all-time high supply includes three new virus strains to help protect the public.
The CDC reports on its Web site, www.cdc.gov, that vaccination should begin as soon as vaccines arrive and can be given throughout the flu season - even as late as February, when the flu season peaks. The vaccines last for about a year and are most needed by children between the ages of 6 months and 19 years old, pregnant women, people 50 years and older, people with certain chronic medical conditions, nursing-home or long-term care facilities residents and people who live or work with those listed beforehand. So if you boil it down, almost everyone should get vaccinated.
People who should not be vaccinated include people who are allergic to chicken eggs, have had a severe reaction to flu vaccines, developed Guillain-Barre syndrome within six weeks of getting a flu vaccine previously or who are younger than 6 months.
Symptoms of the flu include fever, headache, fatigue, dry cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle aches and stomach problems. The CDC reports that between 5 and 20 percent of the population gets the flu and more than 200,000 people are hospitalized from flu-related complications including bacterial pneumonia, ear infections, sinus infections and dehydration. The flu worsens chronic medical conditions like congestive heart failure, asthma or diabetes. About 360,000 people will die from those complications.
As you can see, the flu can cause a lot more problems than just redness from blowing your nose. Also, keep in mind that even if you do get vaccinated, there is still a chance you can get a flu virus strain that is not included in the vaccination. In order to safeguard even further, health care providers interviewed for a flu story earlier this year suggested that people wash their hands often with soap and warm water, use alcohol-based hand sanitizers and, above all, stay home if you are sick.
The site points out that "most healthy adults may be able to infect others beginning one day before symptoms develop and up to five days after becoming sick. That means that you may be able to pass on the flu to someone else before you know you are sick, as well as while you're sick."
Have we convinced you to get vaccinated yet? We hope so and encourage everyone, especially those who are most susceptible, to call your local heath-care provider to inquire about the flu vaccine. For more information visit www.cdc. gov/flu.
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