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Associated Press
Children at a hospital in Virginia Beach, Va., wear masks to protect them from the flu virus.

It’s not too late for a flu shot

Each year, the joys of the holiday season give way to the dread of the flu season. Here we are again.

Of all the infectious diseases you can think of, the flu doesn’t seem all that scary. Just about everybody has had it at one time or another. The majority of us live to tell the horror stories. It’s not nearly as exotic as say, the Ebola virus, which kills almost everybody who gets it; tuberculosis, which continuously threatens to become immune to all treatments; or German measles, which can cause birth defects.

If you get it, the flu will make you feel lousy. That’s bad enough. But if you spread it to a friend, neighbor or colleague who is fighting cancer, arthritis, asthma, diabetes or kidney disease, or someone who’s had a transplant, it can be a killer. Nearly 30 people in Indiana have died from it this flu season, making it the worst outbreak in several years. It’s so serious that hospitals are now imposing restrictions on who can visit.

Vaccination is the best weapon. Japan mandated flu vaccine for schoolchildren from 1962 -87. Nearly 40,000 deaths a year were prevented. After the vaccination of schoolchildren was stopped, deaths from flu in Japan rose. So get vaccinated. It’s not too late.

This year’s flu vaccine is about 60 percent effective, which is to say it’s pretty effective. Statins don’t reduce death from heart disease by that much. Even seat belts don’t reduce crash-related injuries by 60 percent.

The flu vaccine is recommended for just about everyone older than 6 months.

And, if you must, do what I’m doing: spread the word and tell your neighbors and friends to get a flu shot if they haven’t already. Stay healthy and take heart. Soon enough the flu season will give way to spring.

Dr. Joseph Fox is the medical director for Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield in Indiana. He wrote this for Indiana newspapers.

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