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Editorial: Flu vaccine important for yourself, others

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This year’s flu season has hit unusually early and with an unusually strong punch.

There has been a dramatic increase in cases of  influenza across the country compared with last year, with widespread flu reported in 47 states, including Indiana, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Experts are calling this the worst flu season in a decade.

Flu usually peaks in February, but already 20 children have died nationwide. And there are four months to go in this year’s flu season.

The CDC’s Tom Skinner said “people who come down with the flu can be pretty sick,” with severe muscle aches and high-grade fever lasting four or five days. He said that for certain groups of people — mainly children, the elderly and people with underlying health conditions — it can be life-threatening.

The good news is that this season’s flu vaccine appears to be well-matched to this year’s flu strains. So if you haven’t gotten a flu shot this year, don’t delay. Get one as soon as possible.

While the vaccine isn’t 100 percent effective in preventing you from getting the flu, it does reduce the severity of the illness for those who do get it — so it’s still worth a shot. And, no, you cannot get the flu from the shot, only protection.

The CDC urges people to take the following actions to protect themselves and others from the flu:

  • Get a flu shot every year. The agency recommends everyone 6 months old and older get vaccinated.
  • Take everyday preventive actions to stop the spread of germs.
  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Then throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.

Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Germs spread this way.

If you are sick with flu-like illness, CDC recommends that you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities. Your fever should be gone without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.

Take flu antiviral drugs if your doctor prescribes them.

Flu is an annual hazard, but it is important not to underestimate its danger.

The best protection is to get a flu shot. Not only will protect you, it will keep you from spreading the virus to other people.

Many people were caught off guard by the early upsurge in flu cases. But the good news is that it’s not too last to take proper precautions.

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