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Autumn, my favorite season of the year, is now in full swing. Cooler weather and UTEP football games are welcome reminders that the holiday season is coming soon. While we’re a long distance from New England’s illustrious fall foliage, a few of our local trees’ leaves are even turning yellow, orange, and brown. And … it’s also the time for an important but less glorious ritual, the annual flu vaccine.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) encourage everyone older than six months of age to get the seasonal flu vaccine. Covering your cough and washing your hands are important ways to prevent the spread of germs, but, vaccines continue to be the best tool we have to prevent influenza. This is especially true for people who are at higher risk of serious complications, including: pregnant women, adults 65 years of age and older, and children under five.
“Flu” refers to illnesses caused by different influenza viruses. Symptoms of flu include fever, coughing, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, headaches, chills and fatigue. Each year 5-20 percent of the U.S. population gets the flu. Most people recover, but certain people are at risk for serious complications, can be hospitalized, and may die. On average, about 20,000 people in the U.S. die annually due the flu. The flu season usually peaks in February, but can extend as late as May.
Now the good news … Unlike last flu season, when we needed to get two vaccines (the 2009 H1N1 and the seasonal vaccine), this year we only need one, the seasonal vaccine. The viruses in the vaccine change each year based on international data and scientists’ estimations of what strains of viruses will circulate in a given year. The 2010-2011 seasonal flu vaccine protects against three influenza viruses, including the 2009 H1N1 virus. Research indicates that these viruses will be most common during the upcoming months.
Some may be concerned that the flu vaccine can make you sick. Flu vaccines have a strong safety track record. While it is possible to have a reaction to the vaccine, hundreds of millions have received the seasonal flu vaccine over the years.
It is easy to get a flu shot. The vaccine is administered in two forms: the “flu shot” and the nasal spray. You can get the vaccine from your primary healthcare provider and many pharmacies in our community. Immunize El Paso travels around the El Paso area and administers the flu vaccine at schools, churches, and recreation centers on an ongoing basis. They also provide immunizations at the downtown Tillman Health Center (222 South Campbell Street, basement floor). For Immunize El Paso’s latest calendar of events, go to the website www.immunizeelpaso.org.
Within weeks, the holidays will be upon us. Getting the flu is a quick way to dampen the holiday spirit. Trust me, the eggnog’s not quite as satisfying when you have the flu. Getting vaccinated now is an easy way to ensure that your family enjoys a health holiday season.
For information on El Paso area locations where you can receive the flu vaccine:
General information on the flu and the vaccine:
The City of El Paso Public Health Department’s webpage:
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