Welcome to another installment of the Get Ready Mailbag, when we take time to answer questions sent our way by readers like you. Have a question you want answered? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q: The flu comes along every year. Do I really have to worry about it?
A: Thanks for asking! It seems like every year we hear about the flu. But this year’s flu is not necessarily the same old flu that made everyone sick last year. Flu viruses are always changing, meaning that last year’s vaccination won’t protect you now.
States around the country are already reporting flu cases, as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s weekly map shows. This means we’re off to a stronger start to the season than last year. So the short answer is, yes, you should be concerned about the flu.
Here’s why: The flu can be more serious than you think. Aside from some typical symptoms — fever, cough, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headaches, fatigue and even vomiting and diarrhea — the flu can be deadly. Everyone can get sick but some are at greater risk, including seniors, young children and pregnant women.
More than 560 people have already been hospitalized because of flu this season in the U.S. and five children have died, CDC reports.
The best way to avoid the flu is by getting your flu shot. The flu shot won’t give you the flu, if that’s what you might be worried about. CDC recommends that everyone 6 months or older get a flu shot each year. However, the flu shot isn’t for everyone. If you have an allergy or other condition that might make it unsafe, you should ask your doctor first.
To protect yourself and others around you, it is also a good idea to wash your hands often and avoid touching your face, nose, mouth and eyes. Wash your hands with soap and water and scrub for at least 20 seconds.
Find a convenient location to get your flu shot with Healthmap Vaccine Finder. And learn even more about the flu with our Get Ready fact sheet, which is great to share at home, the office or school.