Not Too Late To Get Your Flu Shot

One of the most common, and potentially dangerous, misconceptions about the flu is that it's "just a bad cold." No, it isn't. Some of the symptoms are the same, but influenza is much more dangerous. Each year, some 200,000 Americans are hospitalized, and more than 35,000 people die, because of the flu; that doesn't happen with a cold.

This year, flu season has hit Connecticut hard. According to the state Department of Public Health, the number of hospital emergency department visits because of the flu is greater than those of the past two seasons. The percentage of people hospitalized with flu symptoms is also way up.

At just a bit past the middle of January, confirmed cases of influenza in Connecticut have already surpassed last season's entire total of 1,083.

Another misconception is that after Christmas, it's too late to get a flu shot. Again wrong, according to health officials: The vaccine can still help. It takes about two weeks for full protection to kick in, and flu season typically peaks in February and early March.

There's also no general shortage of vaccine. Because increased publicity about this season's outbreak led many state residents to get a shot, supplies in some pharmacies in some areas temporarily ran out. Hospitals and medical practices still have vaccine, officials say.

According to the medical journal The Lancet, the vaccine is only about 59 percent effective in stopping the disease. Still, experts say, getting a shot is the best way to remain healthy. Other common-sense steps are to stay away from those who display flu symptoms such as high fever, chills and body aches, and to wash your hands frequently.

And seek medical attention right away if you have difficulty breathing, chest pain, sudden dizziness or persistent vomiting. Influenza is too serious to ignore.

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