The Curry Coastal Pilot

It's that time of year again, the season of the flu shot. And while this year's shot is basically a repeat of the one available last year, experts say we should go ahead and get it anyway.

There's a good reason for that. Experts say immunity to the strains it protects against declines over time, leaving us vulnerable again. And while most of us think of the flu as an unpleasant illness that's worth a few days off work, it can be much worse than that.

In fact, influenza kills Americans every year, sometimes as few as 3,000 and sometimes as many as 49,000. In addition, an average of 200,000 Americans are hospitalized with the flu each year.

While officials at the Centers for Disease Control recommend that everyone 6 months old or older be vaccinated against flu, some groups are more vulnerable than others. Among them are children younger than 5, but especially those younger than 2, pregnant women and adults 65 and older. Also at greater risk are those with asthma, diabetes, HIV, AIDS and cancer. It's always a good idea to talk to your doctor.

Flu is one of those illnesses that is easy to catch and easy to give to others, according to the CDC. It is spread by direct contact andndash; shaking hands, hugging andndash; by sneezing, even by simply talking, and an infected person can spread it before he knows he's ill. Aside from vaccination, frequent hand washing with soap and water can prevent the spread of flu and other respiratory illnesses, including the common cold, the CDC says.

This year there are new options for many who cannot stand the thought of being poked by a needle, including nasal mist and injections without needles. The options and their local availability are discussed in the Health section of the newspaper.

Meanwhile, flu shots and their alternatives are available at many grocery stores, Walmart, Target, drug stores, at some workplaces, from your doctor's office and elsewhere. They're often covered by health insurance and Medicare, as well.

Flu not only costs time on the job, it can kill. Vaccination can prevent both the illness and the deaths. Being vaccinated his year will protect you and help protect those you love. It's worth the effort.

andndash;andensp;Wescom News Service (Bend Bulletin)