EDITORIAL: Not too late to get a flu shot

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It happens every year. Despite warnings and recommendations from friends, family, coworkers and our health care providers, about half of us neglect getting a flu shot each year.

Whether it’s because we think our immune system is strong enough to withstand whatever flu season throws our way, or we simply keep putting it off until spring arrives, the fact remains that many of us simply roll the dice and take our chances.

But with this flu season showing itself to be one of the most persistant and deadliest in recent years, health care professionals are reminding the procrastinators among us that it’s not too late to get the shot, even in late February.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and prevention website, the most prevalent strain of the flu nationally this season is Influenza A in the strain of H3N2. The 2018 flu shot has shown to be about 30 percent effective against this dominant strain, though effectiveness varies from year to year.

The peak of flu season generally runs between December and February, though it can routinely last until May, according to the CDC. The flu strain will likely continue to circulate for the next couple of months, meaning there is still risk of getting infected. The CDC reported earlier this month that hospitalizations for the flu this season are on the rise, affecting 60 people for every 100,000 nationally.

On average, about 36,000 deaths are attributed to the flu each year, affecting infants and the elderly the most. Flu seasons are unpredictable in length and severity, and annual vaccination is the best way to prevent the disease among those 6 months and older. Practical measures such as washing your hands, covering coughs and staying home when you’re sick can also greatly reduce the flu’s effects.

This season has been a particularly deadly one among kids. Eighty-four children have died nationally this flu season from flu-related illnesses, according to the CDC. Sadly, that number includes a Fremont County child who died earlier this month. That child’s death brought the total number of flu-related deaths in Wyoming this season to 11.

The CDC has stated that the flu season is likely to continue for the foreseeable future. If you haven’t received a flu shot, you may consider getting one now.

Your family, friends and coworkers will thank you for it.

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