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Editorial - Give yourself a gift this season - get a flu shot

We might as well face it. The Kleenex boxes are stacked against most of us and our immune systems over the holiday season. Coming into contact with more people, stress from shopping and less sleep than usual can seriously curtail your Christmas s...

We might as well face it. The Kleenex boxes are stacked against most of us and our immune systems over the holiday season. Coming into contact with more people, stress from shopping and less sleep than usual can seriously curtail your Christmas spirit and even more so if an illness should strike.

What if instead, for the price of a dinner out, you could dramatically increase your chances of avoiding the flu this winter and in turn give the added gift of not passing it along to others?

Let National Influenza Vaccination Week give you a reason to act.

This week is designated to highlight the importance of receiving influenza (flu) vaccinations, as well as foster greater use of flu vaccine through the months of November, December and beyond.

Although flu shots have been available for weeks, it's not too late to get the shot. In fact, since most of the time flu activity peaks in January or later, now is the perfect time to get it done.

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It takes about two weeks to build up immunity after receiving a flu shot, according to John Gust, pharmacist and owner of the Medicine Shoppe, Cloquet locations.

"If you get the shot this weekend, you can be immune to those viruses right at Christmas-time when you're likely to come into contact with many people - and many germs," he said.

For otherwise healthy people, contracting the flu means exhaustion, fever, body aches and terrible congestion for a week or so.

Bah humbug!

Kidding aside, the flu is serious and can be particularly dangerous for certain people at high risk, from those 65 and older, to those with chronic illnesses such as asthma, diabetes, cancer, kidney or heart disease, along with pregnant women and young children. Each year, on average, 36,000 Americans die of complications from the flu, and more than 200,000 are hospitalized, according to the CDC.

The flu vaccine is safe and effective, and because the three influenza viruses in the flu shot are inactivated, you cannot get the flu from the vaccine. Getting vaccinated can protect you from getting sick from these three viruses or it can make your illness milder if you get a different flu virus.

So spend the $25 this weekend (or spend nothing - it's free if you have Medicare) and take this important step to protect yourself, your loved ones, your co-workers and friends from this serious disease.

For more information about the flu vaccine, contact your doctor or local health department. To find a clinic near you, visit flucliniclocator.org.

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Lisa Baumann, lbaumann@pinejournal.com

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