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As you gather with friends and family this holiday season, beware of an unwanted guest set on spoiling the fun: seasonal flu.
The flu season this year is off to a dangerous and early start. Flu activity has been reported in all 50 states, and rates of infection are more than double what they were at this time last year.
Even scarier, an estimated 20,000 to 40,000 people die nationwide as a result of flu each year.
But take comfort: the flu vaccine drastically lowers your likelihood of catching the flu, and makes it much easier to endure if you do happen to catch it.
And it's not too late.
Everybody over age six months should get their flu shot every year, ideally in the Fall. If you haven't gotten your flu shot, get it now. As the season ramps up, you need to be protected.
Flu vaccines, which change each year to cover the main circulating strains, are generally about 50 to 60 percent effective. To some people, this may sound like a coin toss, but in reality, that is a very effective vaccine.
AdventHealth experts like to say that getting a flu shot is like wearing a seatbelt. It won't prevent all episodes of influenza, but it will reduce the severity, and the chance of complications and death.
The hallmark of influenza which is spread through coughing, sneezing and other human contact is the sudden onset of high fever, along with a cough, chills, body aches.
Most people feel like they wake up in the morning feeling perfectly fine, and by the end of the day you're spiking a fever and feel like you got hit by metaphorical a truck.
In some situations flu can worsen into pneumonia, and, rarely, lead to death. A few groups are more vulnerable to flu complications, especially adults over 65, very young children, pregnant women and people with underlying illnesses. But there are exceptions like the young mom in Arizona who died of flu complications just two days after her first symptoms.
It's rare, but there are those cases where a child or an adult will die, even though they were healthy and had no reason to have complications. The best way to protect yourself against this serious infection is to get the vaccine.
And the benefit of the vaccine is twofold: not only will you lower your own chances of getting sick, you'll reduce the risk of passing the virus onto others which may be the best gift of all.
The more people who are vaccinated, the more protected our public will be at work, in your family and in our community.
While its best to get vaccinated before flu season starts, a shot now is better late than never. Vaccines are still available at multiple AdventHealth locations. Find one and schedule an appointment today.