Early illness serves as a reminder of importance of flu shots

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 24, 2003

Achoo! As I write this column, a box of tissues and pile of cough drops lay in front of me.

While it is not quite flu season yet - flu season in the United States usually occurs from November until April - I have a bad cold. I blame it on the recent change in the weather.

This is the time of year when we all start thinking about

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the dreaded virus. Now is when people start missing work and school. Sadly, it will get worse before it gets better.

As my nose runs, throat hurts, body aches and my temperature approaches the triple-digit mark, I think about the importance of flu shots.

Each winter, millions of people are stricken with the flu.

Since the virus is easily transmitted

-it spreads

any time an infected person sneezes, coughs or even speaks - it is hard to avoid.

Each year, an estimated 114,000 people in the United States are hospitalized because of the flu.

Approximately 36,000 people die because of the virus. Most who die are 65 years and older, but children younger than 2 years old are as likely as senior citizens to have to go to the hospital because of the flu.

One means of prevention that can greatly reduce the risk of infection is the flu vaccine.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends annual vaccination for people at risk, which includes people 65 years or older, residents of nursing homes or other long-term facilities, healthcare workers or caretakers in contact with high risk groups, or anyone with chronic heart, lung, or kidney disease or any severe form of anemia.

When vaccines are plentiful, anyone can request a flu shot. While receiving the flu shot does not necessary guarantee immunity, it will significantly lessen the severity of the flu symptoms.  

According to the CDC, the best time to receive the flu shot is between September and mid-November because it takes the body approximately one to two  weeks to develop full protection against the virus.

In coming weeks, both local health departments will likely begin making flu shots available to the public, depending on the supply of the vaccine. If you are at risk, I would highly suggest considering a flu shot. If you are not sure, ask your doctor.

Shawn Doyle is managing editor of The Ironton Tribune. He can be reached by calling (740) 532-1445, ext 19 or by e-mail (shawn.doyle@irontontribune.com).