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Nebraska ranks in top 10 for flu vaccination. Now is the time to get a shot for the 2013-14 season

By Jan Rahn
Tribune Staff
Those who decide not to get a flu shot this season could very well find themselves among the estimated 63 million people predicted to become ill with some strain of influenza before spring arrives.
It’s recommended that anyone six months and older gets a flu shot. This applies especially to those with weak immune systems.
Get the shot now—well in advance of the flu season which typically peaks in January or February—no matter how healthy you might feel.
Flu season arrived early last year and the season was more harsh than usual—vaccination is the best protection.
Approximately 139 million doses of vaccine being produced for the 2013-14 season were shipped late October. Nearly 32 million of those doses will protect against four different flu viruses. Traditional flu vaccines are made to protect against three different flu viruses. A nasal vaccination is available as an alternative for those fearing needles, especially children.
Flu vaccine is safe, effective and rigorously tested. The most common reaction is soreness and redness at the injection site. FluMist is a nasal spray available for healthy people 2-49 years old who don’t like needles. After vaccination, it takes about two weeks for the body to build immunity.
Flu can be a serious disease. It can hit hard and fast and make a person sick for one to two weeks. Severe cases of flu can lead to hospitalization and even death.
Symptoms include fever (not in everyone), cough, sore throat, runny/stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches, fatigue, vomiting/diarrhea more common in children.
Contrary to what people believe, the flu vaccination does not give people the flu, explained one health official. The stories most likely developed back in the 1950s when there was a live flu vaccine.  
Some people feel flu-like symptoms after receiving a vaccination—they are likely experiencing the immune system responding to antigens that were just given and their body is building up antibodies to thwart off infection.
Those who do become ill after receiving a flu shot sometimes misinterpret their symptoms as well. The flu usually comes on very quickly, hits people hard and generally sits in the lower respiratory, in the lungs. The cold tends to sit in the nose.
According to statistics, Nebraska’s flu vaccination coverage ranked in the top 10 nationwide for the 2012-13 flu season.
Data released by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention indicate that just over 50 percent of Nebraskans six months old and over got their flu vaccine last year.
People choosing not to get a flu shot can take other preventative measures to reduce the risk of getting sick­—proper diet, exercise, plenty of sleep, good personal hygiene and isolation can reduce the risk but are not as effective as the vaccine.
Antiviral drugs are available to help make the illness milder and can prevent serious complications such as pneumonia.
Multiple surveillance systems are used to track flu viruses weekly, including through physicians, lab tests, school surveillance, hospital data, emergency department data and death reporting.