Flu shots a pain, but a wise choice

It's time to roll up your sleeves and prepare for a prick in the arm.

No doubt you have heard that we are in store for one hellacious flu season. The extent of what's to come is really unknown. If you believe the experts, avoiding the flu -- be it the regular seasonal virus or the H1N1 strain -- will be a challenge.

There are things one can do to help prepare for the flu and reduce the risks associated with it.

First, we recommend getting both a regular seasonal flu shot as soon as possible and a shot for the H1N1 virus when those are available, likely sometime in October.

This year the U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC) is encouraging the medical community to begin immunizing for the seasonal flu earlier than normal. The vaccine can be effective for up to one year, so individuals can get a shot early and still be covered during the winter months when the flu is often more prevalent.

Polk County Public Health begins offering its annual flu shot clinics Thursday, Sept. 24. Many private physicians, medical clinics and West Valley Hospital give flu shots. Many local pharmacies will also conduct clinics.

Putting off seasonal flu shots can be dangerous -- and even fatal. According to U.S. health statistics, seasonal flu hospitalizes about 200,000 Americans annually and kills about 36,000 people. The vaccine provides protection for individuals against the flu.

The vaccine for seasonal flu won't protect you from the H1N1 virus, and a separate shot will be required for that.

There are also other, common-sense preventive measures that can be taken to help reduce the risks of contracting the flu. Stay home if you are feeling ill. Regularly wash your hands. Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when sneezing or coughing, or cough and sneeze into you upper sleeve or elbow, not your hands. Clean and disinfect high-use objects and areas.

The annual flu season is inevitable. Getting the flu doesn't have to be. Take steps to protect yourself.


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