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Flu Shot: Will You Get One?

It's National Influenza Vaccination Week. Here's where to get a flu shot in Rohnert Park and Cotati.

More than one-third of United States residents have already been vaccinated against the influenza virus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced.

With National Influenza Vaccination Week, which started last Sunday and ends Saturday, health officials aim to increase that percentage, especially since this year's season may be a bad one.

Influenza—more commonly known as simply "the flu"—is a contagious respiratory illness caused by viruses infecting the nose, throat and lungs. It spreads via infected people coughing, sneezing or talking, though people can also get infected by touching something with the flu virus on it before touching their mouth, eyes or nose.

The 2012-2013 season is shaping up to be one of the worst flu seasons in a while, officials from the CDC said in a teleconference Monday. There have been a larger number of suspected flu cases than usual in five Southern states, and this year's strain may be more virulent. Already, two children have died of the illness.

A similar flu virus struck during the 2003-2004 season, killing more than 48,000 people in one of the most lethal seasons in the past 35 years. Nevertheless, this year's vaccination appears to be better matched to the virus.

"It looks like it's shaping up to be a bad flu season, but only time will tell," CDC Director Dr. Thomas Frieden said.

So far, California and surrounding states have not reported regional or widespread flu activity; however, a jump in the number of influenza cases usually doesn't occur until after Christmas.

“Flu season typically peaks in February and can last as late as May,” Dr. Anne Schuchat, Assistant Surgeon General of the U.S. Public Health Service and Director of CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said in a news release. “We are encouraging people who have not yet been vaccinated to get vaccinated now.”

More than 200,000 people each year are hospitalized due to complications from the flu, according to the CDC.

Symptoms of the flu include muscle or body aches, headaches, cough, sore throat, fatigue, fever or chills, and vomiting and diarrhea (the latter two are more common in kids). The flu can also worsen chronic medical conditions or cause death.

People are contagious a day before symptoms appear and up to a week after getting sick.

The CDC recommends getting annual vaccines as early as possible, as it takes a few weeks to reach full immunity.

Santa Cruz residents who want to get vaccinated can do so at Walgreens, CVS Pharmacy and Rite-Aid locations. To find the location nearest you, use the Flu Vaccine Finder at the top of this page.

Vaccines often cost $20-$30; however, they are often covered by insurance.

Flu shots are an inactivated vaccine made from killed virus, which means it’s impossible to get the flu from the vaccine, according to Dr. Angela Rasmussen, an infectious disease expert.

There are currently three flu shots being produced in the U.S.: the regular (intramuscular) seasonal flu shot, a high-dose vaccine for people 65 and older, and an intradermal (injected into the skin) vaccine for people ages 18 to 64.

In addition, a nasal-spray flu vaccine made with live, weakened flu viruses (which also do not cause the flu) is available to healthy people ages 2 to 49 years old, except pregnant women.

The most common side effect from a flu shot is soreness at the injection site.

Even those who think they don't need a flu shot should get one anyway, according to Jack Cantlin, a pharmacist and the divisional vice president of retail clinical services at Walgreens. It's possible to contract the virus and carry it without being sick.

The elderly, young children, pregnant women and nursing home residents are at greater risk for serious complications from the flu. People with chronic medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes, cystic fibrosis and chronic lung disease—as well as those who work with them—are also at risk.

“People at high risk should talk with their doctor about getting a high-dose 
flu shot, as this can provide better protection for people with immune
 systems that have been weakened by age or other medical conditions,” Rasmussen said.

People with severe chicken egg allergies, a history of Guillain-Barré syndrome, and those who have had a severe reaction to a flu vaccine in the past should consult their doctor before getting a flu shot, and those who have a moderate or severe illness with a fever should wait to get vaccinated until they are well. Babies under six months of age should not get a flu shot.

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Cam December 08, 2012 at 09:03 PM
No, I will not get a flu shot! First & foremost it's a crap-shoot for manufacturers to figure out what strain of virus will be prevalent in the US each season. The effectiveness of flu shots is abismal! CDC's data shows 1 in 100 cases or 1%. And, there most certainly ARE serious side effects of receiving the flu vaccine, such as Guillain-Barre Syndrome, a type of progressive paralysis. There are other more effective ways to protect ourselves from getting the flu, passing it around to others & minimizing any complications of the flu--and more "biologicals" from drug-pushers is NOT one of them. Let's start with building our own immune system: eat lots of nutritious cooked veg for winter (not a time for cooling salads), avoid sugar in all it's forms including alcohol (it decreases the white blood cells' protective function), get plenty of sleep every night (the body's re-building goes on during a night of rest) and --> wash our hands with just plain soap (not antibacterial stuff) especially after touching doorhandles, cell phones, or other shared items and after touching our own mouth, eyes or face. I hope it's obvious that covering our mouth/ nose when coughing or sneezing, and then immediately cleanse our hands keeps any virus from being spread around. There are plenty of other things to add, but I'll rein in my rant right here. Do others have knowledge of effective, so-called alternative methods to prevent flu? Let's share it with everyone.
Cam December 08, 2012 at 11:51 PM
Consider some huge holes in the CDC figures for influenza cases with hospitalization or death--there is NO mandatory reporting to the CDC for persons over 18 years old, so the numbers are only "estimated" from "flu-like" symptoms. Muscle & Body aches? Fatigue? Chills &/ or Fever? These symptoms may be caused by something else! Check it out for yourself: http://www.nvic.org/NVIC-Vaccine-News/October-2012/Influenza-Deaths--The-Hype-vs--The-Evidence.aspx
Janette Brown January 11, 2013 at 04:51 PM
Got one .... did not help still getting over the flu. Maybe the flu shot was only good for the flu they planned on but still not much consolation when I have been in flu hell for the last few days !!!
Reginald "Rex" Henderson January 12, 2013 at 05:41 AM
Um. If you have not gotten a flu shot by now, you are up a certain creek...

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