For yourself – and others – get a flu shot

Get a flu shot and protect the people you know and love.

The flu is now widespread in Washington, affecting people in more than half of the state’s communities. Six people have already died, including one child.

The state Department of Health says the flu has reached an intense level much earlier than usual, raising fears that it might strike harder and affect more people than it has in decades.

And, yet, some people still have not gotten their flu shot. Here are two excellent reasons to get one today:

One, the flu shot has proven more than 60 percent effective in preventing the illness. This can protect you from weeks of fever, pain and other miseries.

Two, the flu shot will help prevent you from giving the flu to someone else.

You can reduce your exposure and the risk of passing the virus by covering your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze. Wash your hands regularly and thoroughly, avoid touching your face, get plenty of sleep and keep your stress down and your immune system up.

If you do come down with flu-like symptoms of fever, muscle aches, runny nose, sore throat – please, stay home.

But the best defense for all of us against the virus is to get a flu shot. Yet health authorities battle misinformation about the immunization every year. Here are a few facts:

 • You can’t get the flu from the flu shot. It’s impossible. The viruses used to make the flu shot are dead. The worst side effect is a sore arm.

 • Most flu shots do not contain mercury, a chemical known to cause other illnesses. That used to be true, but not today. The use of mercury in flu shots was phased out around 2001. None of the single-dose flu shots or nasal sprays available in Washington contain mercury.

 • Healthy people need to get a flu shot to protect people who are not eligible. Newborn babies and adults with abnormally weak immune systems usually can’t get flu shots. Their only protection comes from others getting the shot, and keeping the spread of flu to a minimum.

The spread of the highly contagious disease is so bad this year that several East Coast cities have declared a public health emergency.

More than 20 children have already died nationwide, and the adult death toll is mounting. Twenty-seven people have died in Minnesota, 22 in Pennsylvania, 21 in Indiana, 18 in Massachusetts and the count continues to rise as the flu spreads it way across the country.

Please help contain the virus, and do yourself a favor – along with everyone else in the community – and get a flu shot today. It’s not too late.