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It's not too late to get vaccinated: Officials urge Minnesotans to get a flu shot

(File Photo)

Officials from the Minnesota Department of Health are urging people who have not yet gotten their flu shot to do so soon. Flu season can last through April, and Dr. Nick Krawczyk, a family medicine practitioner at FamilyHealth Medical Clinic in Farmington, said he expects local cases to rise as winter wears on.

"It seems delayed compared (to) last year, but we're starting to see sporadic cases, so I'm expecting us to get much busier in the coming weeks," he said. "It usually spreads very quickly once it's in the community."

Health officials recommend everyone ages 6 months and older get the vaccine. The flu virus, which spreads through respiratory droplets when people cough, sneeze or wipe their nose, can be a life-threatening illness for some. It can be especially dangerous for people with certain pre-existing medical conditions. Krawczyk said these people run the risk of more complications, such as pneumonia and widespread infection, from the flu.

According to the Minnesota Department of Health, the dominant strain circulating this season is influenza A (H3N2), which can have an especially large impact on adults age 65 and older. Kris Ehresmann, director of the Infectious Disease Division at the Minnesota Department of Health, stated in a press release that this year's flu vaccine appears to be a good match for the viruses circulating.

Krawczyk said vaccinations not only help prevent the spread of the virus, but they also make it so that if you do contract the flu, it tends to be much less severe and you are less likely to have a complication.

"Nothing in medicine has been a greater success than vaccinations," he said. "It's a wonderful idea, and in this new era of high deductible plans, this would be a very cost effective thing. If you happen to get complications such as pneumonia, or are in the hospital for an extended period, it can be very expensive. I think people would save a lot of money by being vaccinated."

Symptoms of the flu can include a sore throat, coughing, fever, headache, muscle aches and fatigue and typically come on suddenly. If you have already been struck by the flu, Krawczyk advises the best thing you can do is rest.

"Just rest. It's amazing how many people don't want to take the time to rest," he said. "When you get run down, you tend to get more illnesses, and they tend to get a little worse."

For families disappointed that the nasal spray vaccine is not an option this year due to its ineffectiveness at preventing flu over the past three flu seasons, Krawczyk says to get the shot anyway.

"Although it's a disappointment, we will all survive the vaccine," he said. "I don't think it's anything an ice cream cone won't remedy."

To find a flu vaccine clinic near you, visit mdhflu.com and select "Vaccine Clinic Look-Up," or check with your local doctor's office, walk-in clinic or pharmacy.

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