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Get Ahead of the Flu Before it Gets You

The flu season is unpredictable every year. But you can significantly reduce your risk of getting sick – and lower the risk for those around you – by getting vaccinated.

The more people who are immunized against the flu, the less likely flu will be passed on to people who are susceptible. This is called “herd immunity.”

Mark Shelly, M.D., Director of Infectious Disease“When an infection introduces itself to a population, there’s a certain likelihood that it will pass to another person in the ‘herd,’” says Mark Shelly, M.D., Director of Infectious Disease at Highland Hospital. “When everyone around that person has immunity, they are unlikely to spread that infection to anyone else.

“By increasing immunity of the ‘herd,’ you reduce the number of infections.”

Getting vaccinated can be just as important for healthy people or people who might not feel the effects of flu as severely as others.

“What we know is if you go around checking for the virus, those who don’t get terribly ill or who only get a mild illness, may in fact be having the flu for that year,” Dr. Shelly says. “Those people can be the vector or mode of transmission to the people they’re caring for.”

Dr. Shelly says “presenteeism,” or going to work when you are sick, also is a concern. Co-workers can potentially be exposed to the flu virus.

However, you can avoid the flu easily by getting vaccinated: You will be protecting yourself, and keeping those around you safe, too.

Everyone older than six months of age should get vaccinated, except for the few people who have contraindications to the flu vaccine. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), vaccinations are especially important for:

  • People 65 years and older
  • Pregnant women
  • People who have certain medical conditions including asthma, diabetes, and chronic lung disease.
  • Caregivers of people with medical conditions (indicated above)

This season’s flu vaccine will protect against three flu viruses, including H1N1, H3N2 and an influenza B virus.

For more information on the 2012-2013 flu season, visit www.cdc.gov/flu/.

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