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CDC: Everyone should get flu shot

For the first time, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued a “universal recommendation,” suggesting that everyone more than six months old get a flu shot, as National Influenza Vaccine Week begins Sunday.

The Georgia Department of Community Health is helping spread the word.

“A lot of times people think about getting their kids flu shots, but they don’t think about themselves necessarily,” DCH nurse consultant Penny Conner said. “We want to make sure everybody knows they should get a flu shot this year.”

According to CDC statistics, 863 Georgians were hospitalized for influenza last year, with 74 influenza-related deaths. While Georgia is currently experiencing only moderate flu activity with no deaths, the season can last until May and county health departments, pharmacies and clinics are prepared.

“We do know this year that more flu vaccine has been made available earlier than past flu seasons,” DCH special populations manager Ben Sloat said.

While an immunization is recommended for all, it is especially suggested for groups with a high risk of related complications, including: children six months through 18 years, people older than 50, women who are pregnant and people with chronic diseases like diabetes or asthma.

This year’s vaccine protects against three separate influenza viruses, including the H1N1 strain.

People can also decrease their chances of getting the flu by following simple guidelines like washing their hands often, staying at home when they are sick and coughing into the bend of their elbow.

Next week is intended to raise awareness that everyone is susceptible to the flu, young, old or in the middle.

“(The CDC) recognized that in order for us to provide protection for all, we needed to have everybody over the age of six months get the flu vaccine,” Conner said.

For more information, visit www.dch.georgia.gov.