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Editorial: Immunizations remain available and valuable as flu season reaches its peak

The importance of getting a flu shot cannot be overstated, and yet each year it seems many people need a fresh reminder.

The evidence often comes in the form of a cough, sore throat, runny nose, muscle aches and general misery.

If the person is lucky, he will get through this awful – and hopefully short – period, bounce back and rejoin the world.

If he is not so lucky, symptoms will persist. Many people fail to realize how dangerous the flu can be. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, for example, estimates flu-related deaths ranged from 12,000 to 56,000 since 2010.

So it is important to acknowledge the risks of the flu season, which has begun to reach its peak in Western New York.

As News medical reporter Henry L. Davis recently wrote, health officials want to educate people on the dangers of the flu and the importance of getting the flu shot. It’s not too late. Flu season, much as snow in winter, lasts a while around here, usually into March, April and sometimes May.

This region tends to lag behind others in certain ways and the flu is no exception. New York City is already in the throes of laboratory-confirmed cases that are monitored to track the situation. It is a good idea to follow the advice of Dr. Gale R. Burstein, Erie County health commissioner, who urged preparation.

Influenza A is reportedly the predominant type of the virus now in circulation, although there have been reports of influenza B.

Health officials advise the influenza vaccination for everyone 6 months and older. Yet, not everyone gets a shot. Some refuse out of a false belief that the vaccination will actually cause the flu. Burstein said, “This is biologically impossible.”

Some simply fail to get the shot, and there are people who cannot because they are too young or allergic. Such individuals rely on what health officials call “herd immunity.” The risk to the vulnerable is greatly reduced when more in the community get immunized.

Besides getting the flu shot, which is available at most pharmacies, safe and free to most people with insurance, the public should practice good hygiene; frequent washing of the hands goes a long way.

Some people may not be convinced that they can get the flu, and end up learning the hard way the error in their thinking. It is a statistical possibility, but more important, it is our responsibility to home and community.

For anyone who has not done so yet, get the flu shot.

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