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With all the recent talk about viruses worldwide, it’s easy to forget about influenza, a common bug that hits this time of year and has a simple, readily-available vaccine.

Influenza, known to many of us as the flu, affects an estimated 15 to 40 percent of the population. Approximately 114,000 people are admitted into the hospital with the flu each year, and around 36,000 people die.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that nation-wide, the incidence of flu is increasing – and it’s hit most Florida counties. So what do you do? The best way to avoid the flu is to be vaccinated. The CDC recommends vaccination for people over 6 months of age. Anyone can get the flu, but it’s especially dangerous for seniors, pregnant women and people with chronic health conditions like heart disease, asthma and diabetes. There are a few people who should not get vaccinated.

The more people who received the vaccine, the less likely the flu will spread. But be warned, the virus doesn’t work immediately. It takes about two weeks to develop antibodies that can protect you from the flu. So get your shot now.

While there are several types of vaccinations available, the CDC has not expressed a preference for a particular type, with one exception. Beginning this flu season, the CDC recommends the use of the nasal spray vaccine for healthy children ages 2 through 8 when it is immediately available and if the child has no other health complications. If the nasal spray isn’t available and the flu shot is, the CDC recommends getting the shot immediately.

Flu symptoms can often be confused with a common cold. However, if you experience any of the following, see your physician:

* Fever or feeling feverish/chills (not everyone with the flu will have a fever)
* Cough
* Sore throat
* Runny or stuffy nose
* Muscle or body aches
* Headaches
* Fatigue (tiredness)
* Vomiting and Diarrhea (more common in children than adults)

If you have not had your flu vaccine, call your doctor’s office to make an appointment. UCF Pegasus Health has vaccines available for its patients. There also are a number of pharmacies around town that offer vaccinations at convenient times.

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