Now is the time to get your flu shot, health experts warn

WASHINGTON — Doctors want as many people as possible to get vaccinated against the flu as quickly as possible in light of last season’s number of deaths.

“We should get vaccinated now. The best time is certainly before October 31,” said Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health.

“If you don’t make it by then, it’s never too late. You should get vaccinated, because we need to protect the population,” Fauci said.

There were 80,000 influenza-related deaths last season, which Fauci said is the highest number since the U.S. began tracking seasonal flu. There were about 900,000 hospitalizations.

With rare exception, everyone 6 months old and older should get vaccinated, the Centers for Disease Control and Protection advises.

People most at risk of developing potentially harmful complications from the flu are pregnant, the very young and old, and people with underlying conditions. Those groups should seek professional help at the first sign of flu symptoms, Fauci said, because antivirals such as Tamiflu are most effective when taken early on.

“The benefit doesn’t stop after 24 to 48 hours; it’s maximum if you do it early,” Fauci said.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends children be given flu shots versus the nasal spray flu vaccine, because the nasal spray in previous years wasn’t as effective. But, Fauci and the CDC said both forms of vaccination now are acceptable options.

The nasal spray is OK for people who aren’t pregnant and between 2 and 49 years old.

You can best prepare your body for the flu season by eating well and getting plenty of sleep. To avoid infecting yourself or spreading the flu, wash your hands frequently and cough into your elbow.

And, of course, get your flu shot: Fauci said that will help protect you and your neighbors, such as infants younger than 6 months old who aren’t able to get vaccinated.

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