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Published: Saturday, 1/12/2013

Don’t fool with the flu

Feeling a little punky? Tired? Achy? Got a fever? Sore throat? Cough? Stomach upset? You should have had your flu shot.

Or maybe you got the vaccine a month or two ago and still got sick. Flu shots only work about 60 percent of the time — in a good year.

The flu season started early this year and is hitting some areas of the country hard. In Boston, so many people have ended up at emergency rooms since December that the city declared a medical emergency.

Hundreds of people complaining about flu symptoms have shown up at Toledo-area hospitals since Jan. 1.

Take heart. Health officials say this year’s rash of influenza cases only appears worse because of last year’s mild outbreak.

In addition, this year’s strain of the virus makes people especially sick. There are reports of people laid up for two weeks or more by flu symptoms.

Often viruses might just feel like the flu — cold comfort for anyone sporting a fever, diarrhea, and vomiting.

If you got a flu shot — recommended for everyone over 6 months of age — you’ve got a better than even chance of making it through the season unscathed. You can improve your chances by staying away from sick people.

If you feel even mildly sick, stay home. Working or attending your kid’s basketball game means sharing the virus with other people. Sick or well, if you must mingle with a lot of people, wear a mask.

If you’re sick, protect other family members. Cover your mouth when you cough. Use tissue to wipe that runny nose, then throw the tissue away. Wash your hands often. Disinfect surfaces that other people use, such as kitchen counters.

Go to your doctor or straight to the emergency room if your symptoms are severe. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta doesn’t keep statistics on adult deaths, but it estimates that 24,000 Americans die every year from the flu.

Twenty children have died already this year — none in Ohio, but four in Michigan. You don’t want someone in your family, or yourself, to become a statistic.

Didn’t get a flu shot yet? It’s not too late. Unlike other years, there’s plenty of vaccine around. If your doctor doesn’t have any doses, he or she will know who does.

It is especially important that children, pregnant women, anyone over age 65, and people with chronic health problems such as asthma, heart disease, and lung disease be vaccinated. Of the 20 children who died from flu this year, only two had been fully vaccinated.

Don’t fool with the flu.

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