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Influenza and the Flu Vaccine

Flu vaccine prevents influenza nine times out of ten, and makes it milder the rest of the time. It reduces days lost from work by 50%. There are very few reasons why people older than age 6 months should not get flu vaccine.

Influenza and the Flu Vaccine

By Ronald Musto, MD, MPH

It's the most wonderful time of the year – holidays, sleigh rides, hot chocolate… and the cold and flu season! Here is how you can protect yourself and others.

Influenza: it's not just another cold! Influenza strikes about 15% of the population each year. (That's 45 million people I the U.S. alone). It makes younger people miserable and older people very ill. In fact, influenza causes over 200,000 hospitalizations and more than 30,000 deaths each year in the U.S – mostly in people older than 65 – at a cost of over $10.4 billion annually.

Flu vaccine prevents influenza nine times out of ten, and attenuates it (makes it milder) the rest of the time. It reduces days lost from work by 50%. There are very few reasons why people older than age 6 months should not get flu vaccine.

Flu season in the U.S extends from October through May. Flu vaccine can be administered anytime during this period while supplies last.

If you travel, be aware that flu season in the southern hemisphere runs from April through September. There is always influenza somewhere in the world!

Effective, common sense precautions will reduce your risk of getting – or spreading – not only influenza but most other respiratory illnesses including colds, sore throats, and coughs.

If you are ill, keep some distance between yourself and others.

Carry tissues and use them to cover your mouth and nose whenever you cough or sneeze. Discard the tissues immediately after use.

Wash your hands often and especially when you use tissues, touch your face, or touch other people. Soap and water works fine, but alcohol-based hand rubs are more convenient.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of deep powder, hot toddies, warm fires and a healthy winter season.

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