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Flu shot is your best bet against getting the flu this year

Here is a column by State Senator Dave Burke, pictured, (R-Marysville) reflecting on the annual flu season.

As a pharmacist, one of the best parts about my job is working with my customers to improve or maintain their health. With cooler weather upon us, I have been focusing on helping people stay healthy through the cold and flu season – and that includes encouraging them and their families to get a flu shot.

While flu activity typically peaks in January or February in the U.S., flu season can start as early as October and extend as late as May. That is why health professionals recommend getting a flu shot as soon as the vaccine is available, especially for seniors and those with certain medical conditions who are at risk of developing serious complications if they become sick with the flu.

Nearly 150 million doses of flu vaccine will be produced for the 2012-2013 flu season, and most of the vaccines have already been distributed. Even if you’ve gotten a flu shot in the past, it’s important to get one every year, as the vaccine is formulated each year to keep us with changes in the flu virus.

Despite the fact that getting a flu vaccine provides the best protection against getting the flu, there are still many misconceptions about it that cause people to not get vaccinated.

Misconception #1: You can get the flu from a flu shot.

Fact: The flu shot contains inactivated virus that cannot cause infection. People who fall ill shortly after receiving the flu shot may have been exposed to the flu before the protection from the vaccine can take full effect or may have contracted another illness that typically circulates this time of year. The most common side effect from the flu shot is soreness at the injection site, although some people experience a fever or muscle aches. These side effects are usually mild and only last one or two days.

Misconception #2: Getting the flu shot too early means I won’t be protected when flu season peaks.

Fact: While it’s true that the antibodies developed by the flu shot do decline over time, a healthy person typically produces enough of them to offer protection throughout flu season. In addition, it’s never really “too late” to get a flu shot either – those receiving the vaccine in December or later can still receive the protective benefits of the vaccine.

Misconception #3: Getting more than one flu shot will provide me with greater protection.

Fact: There have been no studies that have shown a benefit of receiving more than one flu shot during each flu season, even among seniors with weakened immune systems.

Flu season is unpredictable, and while healthy habits like washing your hands and maintaining a balanced diet can help your body fight off the flu and other diseases, the flu shot remains one of the easiest ways to protect you and your loved ones from the flu. For more information about the flu or where to get a flu shot, contact your doctor or your local health department.

As always, please do not hesitate to contact my office if you have questions or concerns about any of the matters we are discussing at the Statehouse. I can be reached by phone at (614) 466-8049, by e-mail at Burke@OhioSenate.gov or by writing State Senator Dave Burke, Ohio Statehouse, 1 Capitol Square, Columbus, OH 43214. I look forward to hearing from you.

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