Flu season is approaching and we need to get the flu vaccination. If you don’t get this valuable immunization, you may become a victim of the flu virus. With that thought in mind, we all need to roll up our sleeves and get in line to receive the protection that is made available to us. Medical clinics and drugs stores will have this vaccine ready to immunize everyone who requests it.

Every year senseless deaths occur from the flu virus. Last year in North Carolina there were a total of 114, flu-associated deaths, seven more than the year before. You do not have to be a victim, get vaccinated.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states, “more than 140 flu-related pediatric deaths were reported and on an average, each year 20,000 children under the age of 5, are hospitalized due to flu complications. The CDC does not count how many people die from flu each year. Unlike flu deaths in children, flu deaths in adults are not nationally reportable. However, the CDC has two flu surveillance systems (http://www.cdc.gov/flu/weekly/index.htm) that are used to monitor relative levels of flu-associated deaths. One is the “122 Cities Mortality Reporting System” and the other is mortality data collected by the National Center for Health Statistics. Both of these systems track the proportion of death certificates processed that list pneumonia or influenza as the underlying or contributing cause of death of the total deaths reported. These systems provide an overall indication of whether flu-associated deaths are elevated, but do not provide an exact number of how many people died from flu. For more information, see Overview of Influenza Surveillance in the United States(http://www.cdc.gov/flu/weekly/overview.htm), “Mortality Surveillance.”

I’m sure we’ve all heard some of the reasons people don’t get the flu shot. I don’t like needles. I am allergic to the vaccine. I get the flu every time I get the flu shot. Whatever your excuse, people are dying from the flu virus, and you don’t need to be a victim.

How is the flu spread? One example of how the flu is spread is if you have the flu and you cough into your hand and use the telephone, others may use the same phone, and eat with unwashed hands; then the flu virus has new victims. You can be contagious even before the symptoms appear and you can continue to be contagious about a week after you have symptoms.

What are the symptoms of the flu? Symptoms may include fever, chills, headaches, muscle aches, coughing and sneezing, stuffy nose, tiredness, possible diarrhea, vomiting and abdominal pain.

What can you do to avoid being a victim of the flu virus? Wash your hands often with soap and warm water. Stay away from people who are coughing and sneezing. Do not share cups or utensils.

Who should get the flu shot? The CDC recommends the flu shot each year for high risk individuals such as: seniors over the age of 65, pregnant women, those who have asthma, diabetes, or other chronic medical conditions, young children, health care worker, policemen, and those who work in the prisons.

Who should not get the flu shot? If you had a severe reaction in the past from getting a flu shot, such as: facial swelling, difficult breathing or the hives, do not get the flu vaccine. Infants under six months of age should not get the flu shot. If you have a fever, do not get the flu vaccine. Anyone who has Guillain-Barre Syndrome, (a rare disorder in which your body’s immune system attacks your nerves) consult your physician before getting the flu vaccine.

CDC recommends special consideration for those who are allergic to eggs, “People who have had a severe allergic reaction to eggs can get recombinant flu vaccine, if they are 18 years through 49 years of age, or they should get the regular flu shot, inactivated influenza vaccine given by a medical doctor with experience in management of severe allergic conditions. People who have had a mild reaction to eggs, that is, one which only involved hives, may get a flu shot with additional safety measures.

Recombinant flu vaccines also are an option for people if they are 18 through 49 years of age and they do not have any contraindications to that vaccine. Make sure your doctor or health care professional knows about any allergic reactions. Most, but not all, types of flu vaccine contain a small amount of egg.”

Staying healthy and avoiding the flu should be our goal this flu season.

To read more about the flu, visit science.howstuffworks.com/life/cellular-microscopic/flu 1.htm, Kidsnealth.org/teen/infections/common/flu.html, www.flu.nc.gov/data, www.cdc.gov, www.mayoclinic.org/guillain-barr-syndrome/.../con-200.