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Please make sure you have a flu shot

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Now more than ever, procrastinators need to get that flu shot.

Although the deadly flu season started in November, which was a month earlier than usual, health officials say that the danger could hang around through May.

There are hundreds of flu-stricken Californians now checking into hospitals, visiting doctor’s offices or toughing it out on their own at home.

This season is already taking a heavy toll throughout the state. As of last Friday, 42 Californians under the age of 65 died of influenza. That’s almost five times the number of Californians, which numbered nine in that age range, who died at the same time the year before.

And that number doesn’t include those residents ages 65 and over who have died.

In the severe 2013-14 season that affected all ages, the California Department of Public Health during the first day in February 2014 confirmed 148 flu deaths throughout the state.

Hopefully, we won’t reach that epidemic 14 days from now.

But we have to take steps to prevent that from happening; we can’t just hope that the number of influenza deaths will stop on their own. Each one of us needs to be proactive.

And it can be as easy as getting a flu shot.

“With the increase in influenza impacting many communities across the entire state, it is important to get a flu shot now if you have not done so already,” said California Department of Public Health Director and State Public Health Officer Dr. Karen Smith in a press release last week. “Although influenza season usually peaks between December and February, flu activity can occur as late as May, which means it is not too late to get vaccinated.” 

Vaccinations will prevent infection in a large number of cases, according to Smith, and will reduce the severity of flu symptoms in other cases.

"Getting the flu shot is still the best way to protect yourself and others from flu,” Smith said.

Area doctor offices and pharmacies have the vaccines ready. Getting a vaccine takes just a few minutes.

Since we’re looking at perhaps another four months of flu activity, today’s the perfect day for anyone who hasn’t yet been vaccinated to get a shot.

That’s because, as California Department of Public Health’s state epidemiologist Dr. Gilberto Chavez pointed out last week in a press conference, influenza “is very unpredictable” and this season’s level of severity can not be predicted.

Dr. James Watt, the department’s chief of communicable disease control, added that several important indicators of the flu season are worsening.

The number of deaths so far is significantly higher than at the same time in the previous several influenza seasons, the season started earlier and it’s important to get flu shots now, Watt summarized.

That’s a compelling directive about one life-and-death situation we can control by making sure all our family members from 6 months old to seniors are protected with flu shots.