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Our Opinion: Quit putting off that flu vaccine

Influenza season is just getting underway in Minnesota, and it’s not too late to get vaccinated against what can be a serious disease, say state health officials.

Nearly everyone should get vaccinated against the flu.

We bring this up because Dec. 8-13 is National Influenza Vaccination Week. Hooray! Blow up a balloon. Eat some cake. And quit putting off that flu shot.

Throughout the state, influenza vaccination clinics will be sponsored that week at a wide variety of places, including clinics, hospitals, pharmacies and worksites.

Hate the shot? Other vaccine options are available. Check with your provider to decide which is the best option for you.

Influenza vaccination is recommended for everyone six months and older unless they cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons.

It is especially important that those at high risk for serious complications from influenza be vaccinated. These include pregnant women, seniors, young children and those with chronic medical conditions.

Children under six months of age cannot receive influenza vaccine, so household contacts and caretakers should be vaccinated to protect the very young.

By getting vaccinated for influenza now, you can greatly reduce your chances of getting influenza, or spreading it to someone else, during the busy holiday season.

The flu is no joke. Last season, more than 3,000 people in Minnesota were hospitalized with influenza.

The vaccine effectively prevents about half of influenza cases in healthy adults and even more in children. The vaccine isn’t perfect, but if you don’t get vaccinated, you have zero protection.

And you could hurt the one you love. Protection may be less in those with weakened immune systems, including the elderly, making it even more important for their contacts to be vaccinated.

Had the flu shot last year? Good — get it again. It’s important to get the influenza vaccine every year, health officials said, because the level of protection wanes over the course of the year. Also, the vaccine often changes from year to year because the strains of virus circulating around the world can change.

Minnesota is now seeing sporadic flu activity. Flu season can peak anytime between January and April, so getting an influenza vaccination now can provide months of protection.

Besides getting vaccinated, there are other steps people can take to avoid spreading or catching the flu:

Do your best to stay healthy. Get plenty of rest, physical activity and healthy eating.

Stay home from school or work if you have a respiratory infection. Avoid exposing yourself to others who are sick with flu-like illness.

Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue whenever you cough or sneeze, then throw the tissue away.

The symptoms of influenza, which tend to come on suddenly, can include a sore throat, coughing, fever, headache, muscle aches and fatigue. People who become severely ill with influenza-like symptoms should see a doctor.