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Don't let the bug bite

Mirror staff

The flu is nothing to mess around with, according to health officials who this week issued their annual advisory for the public to get vaccinated against the troublesome bug.

While most people can weather the week or so of misery that influenza causes, other people are considered high-risk flu sufferers and shouldn’t put off getting their shots, officials said.

The precaution is “most important for those at risk of complications if they get influenza and for those who live, work and are in contact with high-risk persons,” said Dr. Alonzo Plough, director of Seattle-King County Public Health Department.

Most vulnerable to complications are:

• Everyone from six-month-olds on up with chronic diseases of the heart, lung or kidneys, diabetes or immunosuppression, including HIV.

• All people 50 or older.

• Residents of long-term care facilities.

• Children (infants to 18-year-olds) receiving long-term aspirin therapy.

• Pregnant women who will be past their third month of pregnancy during flu season.

Healthcare workers, especially those at long-term care facilities, should also be vaccinated to help protect patients, Plough noted.

He also “strongly encouraged” vaccinations for healthy children six through 23 months of age, their household contacts and out-of-home caretakers, persons traveling to the the tropics, and students at schools and colleges.

Influenza is highly contagious and potentially fatal. It causes an average of 36,000 deaths and 114,000 hospitalizations per year in the U.S. Pneumonia is the most common complication in high-risk groups.

Flu begins with two to seven days of fever, headache, muscle aches, extreme fatigue, runny nose and sore throat, and a cough that is often severe and may last seven days or more.

Unlike past years when vaccine supply couldn’t keep up with demand, this flu season “there is plenty of vaccine and no delay, so everybody should get their shots,” Plough urged.

The innoculation doesn’t necessarily have to be a shot. Health Department officials said that in addition to the traditional injection that contains a killed flu virus and is for anyone six months old and up, a newly licensed vaccine with a “live” but weakened virus can be sprayed into the nose. It’s only for healthy people age 5 to 49 years old, however.

While shots are low and not on most lists of favorite things, they’re safe. Officials assured that the vaccine can’t cause flu and that side-effects are rare, other than possible soreness for a couple days where the injection was given.

Besides private physicians, flu shots are available at Health Department clinics, including the Federal Way location (www.metrokc.gov/health).

The flu shot benefits “the entire community,” said King County Coucilwoman Carolyn Edmonds, chairwoman of the county Board of Health.

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