Achoo! Don’t Get the Flu

Doctor giving man a flu shot in the arm.Unpredictable. That’s the best way to describe flu season, which officially begins in late October and winds down in May. Winter is prime flu season, but it can peak as early as October or as late as April.

It’s impossible to know what the 2011-12 flu season has in store for us. What we do know is that the flu is a highly contagious respiratory illness that can cause mild to severe reactions, and it can even be fatal.

Every year, more than 200,000 people in the United States are hospitalized with the flu. The best way to protect yourself and your family is to get vaccinated every year.

Who is at risk?

Even healthy children and adults can become very sick from the flu and spread it to family and friends. You can pass on the flu before even knowing you are sick!

Who should get the flu vaccine?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that everyone over the age of six months gets vaccinated. Those at higher risk for serious complications include:

  • People age 65 and older
  • Children younger than five, but especially children younger than two
  • People with health conditions such as asthma, chronic lung disease, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes, as well as kidney, liver, and neurological disorders
  • Pregnant women

Others who should get a flu shot:

  • Health care workers
  • Residents of nursing homes or other long-term care facilities, as well as family and friends who have contact with a resident
  • Caregivers of young children, especially infants under six months who are at the highest risk of flu-related complications

What is the best time to get vaccinated?

The sooner you get a flu shot, the sooner you’ll be protected. However, experts agree: it’s never too late.

If you have questions about getting a flu shot, talk to your doctor. To locate a physician in your area, visit www.UPMC.com/FindADoctor or call 1-800-533-UPMC (8762).

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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