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Flu season’s near, get your shot, doctors say

Doctors suggest getting your flu shot as early as possible since flu seascan start as early as September.  |

Doctors suggest getting your flu shot as early as possible since flu season can start as early as September. | Submitted by Edward Hospital

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Did you know?

The flu vaccine is recommended for most people older than 6 months. There are some people who should not get a flu vaccine without first consulting a physician. These include:

People who have a severe allergy to chicken eggs.

People who have had a severe reaction to an influenza vaccination.

People who have a moderate-to-severe illness with a fever (they should wait until they recover to get vaccinated.)

People with a history of Guillain–Barré Syndrome (a severe paralytic illness, also called GBS) that occurred after receiving influenza vaccine and who are not at risk for severe illness from influenza should generally not receive vaccine.

Will flu shot protect against “stomach flu”?

Many people use the term “stomach flu” to describe illnesses with nausea, vomiting or diarrhea. These symptoms can be caused by many different viruses, bacteria or even parasites. While symptoms can sometimes be related to the flu — more commonly in children than adults — these problems are rarely related to influenza. The flu is a respiratory disease and not a stomach or intestinal disease.

On the Web: To learn more about where to be vaccinated, visit

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Updated: October 20, 2012 6:04AM

Goodbye summer. But with temperatures still pleasant, getting a flu shot might not be on your to-do list. Experts argue it should be.

“The flu season can start as early as September,” said Dr. Elias Shaheen, a physician with Edward Medical Group in Naperville. “I recommend that my patients get the flu shot as soon as it becomes available ... Definitely, go get it, (because) you want to get it before flu season hits.”

Shaheen is talking about seasonal influenza — the flu — a virus that infects the nose, throat and lungs. Unlike the common cold, the flu can cause severe illness and life-threatening complications in many people.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate on average 5 to 20 percent of the U.S. population get the flu each year, and more than 200,000 people are hospitalized from seasonal flu-related complications. The best defense — without a doubt — is to get the flu shot.

Fifty-three-year-old Jacquee Lawrence has been getting an annual flu shot for more than two decades. The Yorkville resident said it’s a safe and effective way to guard against influenza.

“It’s a simple way to protect yourself against a killer,” said Lawrence, who also brings her 95-year-old mother along for a vaccination. “We both have weakened immune systems and realize the potential of what a flu bug could do to us.”

Mary Anderson, manager of infection control at Edward Hospital, said each year the CDC tracks influenza trends and determines what will be included in the vaccine. Private companies then manufacture the vaccine that combats against three different strains of the flu virus.

“We never know when flu will hit or what strains we will see, but generally the CDC does a really good job of trying to anticipate what is coming,” Anderson said. “Most years, the vaccine is matched very well to the strains that circulate.”

The 2012-2013 vaccine is available as a shot or nasal spray, and is recommended for most people older than 6 months old. While it’s the best defense against the flu virus, it’s equally important to get it early.

“Your body doesn’t instantly produce the antibodies in response to the vaccine that will protect you from the flu,” Anderson said. “It takes at least a couple of weeks for your body to build up that immunity, so you want to get the flu vaccine before you get exposed to influenza.”

And the benefits of the vaccine extend beyond the individual patient.

“I recommend patients get the flu shot, not only to protect themselves, but (to protect) the loved ones who surround them,” Shaheen said. “Some people say they have had it before, and they get over it in a couple days, but the reality is they can give it to someone else who won’t get over it that easily.

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