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Americans Encouraged to Get Flu Vaccine

FRIDAY, Dec. 9 (HealthDay News) -- Flu vaccination is easy to get and one of the best ways to protect your health during the flu season, but too few Americans take advantage of it, experts say.

"People often shrug off concerns about the flu, yet every year it strikes up to 20 percent of Americans, sending more than 200,000 to the hospital and killing thousands," Dr. Thomas Slama, president of the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) and a clinical professor of medicine at the Indiana University School of Medicine, said in an IDSA news release.

There are several different ways to receive the flu vaccine and it's available in doctor's offices, health clinics, pharmacies and retail stores, but only 42 percent of people in the United States were vaccinated last flu season, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC's National Influenza Vaccination Week, Dec. 4-10, is meant to encourage more Americans to get vaccinated against the flu. The IDSA backs that effort.

"The flu shot is like the seat belt -- it's easy to use and protects against serious complications, even if the protection is not perfect," Dr. Andrew Pavia, chair of IDSA's Pandemic Influenza Task Force and chief of the division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at the University of Utah, said in the news release.

"Last year, during a relatively mild flu season, we treated very severe complications of the flu in otherwise healthy teenagers. So, just as everyone uses seat belts, everybody, even healthy people, should get the flu vaccine," Pavia said.

There are several types of flu vaccination, including a new one called an intradermal shot. It uses a tiny needle that's 90 percent smaller than that used for a regular flu shot. The vaccine is injected into the skin, not the muscle.

There's also a nasal spray form of flu vaccination that's available for healthy children and adults aged 2 to 49. However, pregnant women can't use it.

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about preventing the flu.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Infectious Diseases Society of America, news release, Dec. 5, 2011

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