Doctors say now is the time to protect yourself against the flu

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We’re approaching that time of year where everyone seems to be coughing, sniffling, and just feeling under the weather. While cases of influenza are sporadic in Vermont right now, flu season is right around the corner.

“As November, December, and January play out, that’s when it really peaks,” said Vermont Health Commissioner, Mark Levine.

Levine said the flu was responsible for 2500 hospitalizations in Vermont last year and caused tens of thousands of deaths around the country. The U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends everyone 6 months and older get their flu shot, preferably by the end of October.

“It is the one tool that we have that we know is safe and effective at protecting influenza,” said Dr. Benjamin Lee, who works at the University of Vermont Medical Center.

Dr. Lee says the flu vaccine is designed to protect against the most prevalent strains of Influenza A and Influenza B.

“You may have a bit of an achy arm or some achy muscles for a little while,” he said. “But that’s the extent we expect to see in terms of side effects.”

Dr. Lee said that’s a fair trade off from dealing with the high fever, cough, sore throat, and other symptoms that come with getting the flu. By getting the flu vaccination, you’re helping more than just yourself. Young children, pregnant women, those with chronic medical conditions, and people over 65 are more at risk of developing serious flu-related complications.

“You getting a vaccine could actually help someone you come in contact with who might get a very serious illness because of their underlying disease,” Levine said. “So getting a vaccine can help the whole population.”

If you’re sick, health professionals recommend covering your mouth when you cough, staying home from work or school, and washing your hands frequently.

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