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Our View: Editorial....Consider this a shot in the arm

It starts off with a scratchy throat that turns into a raging inferno by the end of the day. Then the headache and body aches set in, and the fever that racked your body turns to chills. By the next morning, it hurts just to turn over on your pil...

It starts off with a scratchy throat that turns into a raging inferno by the end of the day. Then the headache and body aches set in, and the fever that racked your body turns to chills. By the next morning, it hurts just to turn over on your pillow, and you feel like you've been run over by a truck.

Yup, it's that time of year again - flu season. Colds and flu used to be considered pretty much a routine part of every Minnesota winter. But no more. With the advent of today's highly effective flu vaccines, many who might otherwise have succumbed to the ravages of the flu have avoided it altogether. More importantly, countless lives have been saved through the vaccine - though an average of 24,000 Americans still die each flu season, according to the Center for Disease Control.

And yet, despite all the misery and tragedy that the flu causes, only about a third of the population actually gets vaccinated against it.

No doubt there are a host of reasons, but availability of the vaccine is not one of them this year. The vaccine is in plentiful supply to vaccinate everyone 6 months of age or older, is available not only at your family doctor's office or clinic but in many grocery stores and pharmacies throughout the area, and the cost is covered by most insurance companies.

Others are probably reluctant to suffer the pain and anxiety of getting a "shot." This year, however, the vaccine is not only available in the traditional "intramuscular" form, injected into the muscle of the upper arm, but also as an inhaled mist for people ages 2 to 49 years who are not pregnant, and as an intradermal injection for ages 18-64, administered just beneath the surface of the skin with an extremely fine needle.

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Still others have bought in to the excuse that someone they know (or perhaps themselves) "got the flu" after getting the flu vaccine. That argument doesn't hold water either, however, since viruses in the flu shot are killed (inactivated), so there is no way you can get the flu from a flu shot (though it's important to remember that the vaccine doesn't reach full effectiveness for two weeks). While some folks may experience temporary achiness or itching at the injection site, or possibly a low-grade fever for a day or two if their system is particularly sensitive, the aftereffects are in no way as extreme and serious - or contagious - as the flu itself.

This year's flu season in the United States got off to the earliest start in nearly a decade, and health officials have reported that the strain of flu that's started to crop up (primarily in the southern states thus far) tends to make people sicker than other types. According to authorities, however, this year's vaccine is well matched to combatting the flu strain that has started circulating.

All of the warning signs are out there. It's not too late to take action and get you and your family vaccinated before flu cases start showing up in Minnesota.

Chances are you'd never think of driving without your seatbelt, or allowing your young children to ride without a car seat. Why would you risk going without a flu shot?

Wendy Johnson

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