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Editorial: Time to get vaccinated for flu season

Last Modified: Sunday, October 07, 2012 8:03 PM

It’s that time again, folks. The cooler temperatures, changing leaves and pumpkins lining neighborhood doorsteps are not only signs that fall has arrived, but also signal the return of flu season.

Despite last year being labeled as the mildest flu season on record, health officials warn the virus could bounce back to its usual brutality this go ‘round.

“People cannot become complacent this year,” said Dr. Howard Koh, assistant secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services.

Flu specialists are reluctant to say how bad this flu season might be because influenza strains constantly evolve — and some cause more illness than others.

Two new strains of influenza have begun circling the globe, and the updated vaccine appears to work well against them, Koh said.

A yearly vaccination is recommended for nearly everyone, but a DHH report released Thursday shows that last year 52 percent of children and 39 percent of adults were immunized. Even though seniors are at an especially high risk of severe illness if they catch the flu, only 66 percent of them were immunized — a number that has been slowly dropping for several years.

These numbers are unacceptable and dangerous.

Influenza is a serious disease and can lead to hospitalization and, in more serious cases, death.

The vaccination is especially important for people who are at high risk of developing serious complications if they get the flu, such as those with asthma, diabetes and chronic lung disease, as well as pregnant women and those over 65.

The vaccination is also important for people who are caregivers and those who live with people in these risk groups.

The only ones who shouldn’t get vaccinated are babies younger than 6 months and people with severe allergies to eggs, which are used to make the vaccine.

The vaccine is covered by insurance, and Medicare and some plans don’t require a co-pay; drugstore vaccination programs tend to charge about $30.

People can be vaccinated anytime, but Koh cautioned it takes about two weeks for protection to kick in. Flu typically starts to appear in October or November, and peaks in January or February.

Don’t wait to get immunized. By the time that sore throat, fever, aches and chills come it’ll be too late.

•••

This editorial was written by a member of the American Press Editorial Board. Its content reflects the collaborative opinion of the Board, whose members include Bobby Dower, Ken Stickney, Jim Beam, Crystal Stevenson and Donna Price.

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