Will you get the flu shot?

National Influenza Week stresses importance of vaccinations

No one wants the flu at any time, let alone during the holidays.

Flu is a contagious, viral illness that causes mild to severe symptoms that, in rare cases, can lead to death.

Last year's vaccine was 42 percent effective, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but that number has been significantly lower in other years. You can also get the flu by touching a surface or object that has the flu virus on it and then touching your mouth, eyes or nose. Both the CDC and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommend flu shots for all women who are or will be pregnant during the flu season. The number of influenza-associated hospitalizations reported in individuals in the 65 years and older age group is almost double the average number of cases reported over the past five flu seasons.

Children, especially those with underlying health conditions, are at higher risk of severe outcomes from influnza infection.

No new deaths, but another two-dozen-plus people are hospitalized in Oklahoma with the flu in the past week.

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This is National Influenza Vaccination Week (Dec. 3-9), and there is no better time to remind not only older adults, but everyone to get their annual flu vaccine. There are now specially-designed flu vaccines for seniors, meant to protect older people who face an increased risk from influenza. Individuals can contact the health department at 325-646-0554 for information about the cost of the flu vaccine for children.

The shots are cheap and available widely, including at large pharmacies, walk-in clinics, and doctors' offices. DHEC encourages everyone to find the facility that works best for them.

The CDC also advises people to wash their hands often to prevent spreading flu, and to stay home if they're sick so they won't spread it to others. Flu vaccines offer lasting protection against the flu for the entire flu season. You can become infected by touching one of these areas after touching something that is covered in germs.

Siegel added that he worries that "this could be a very severe flu season".

"There's all kinds of speculation going on because of the experience in the Southern Hemisphere", said Dr. Danuta Skowronski of the BC Centre for Disease Control, referring in particular to Australia.

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