Get your flu shot.
It’s such a sound piece of advice - offered by nearly every private doctor, public health official and worker in the next cubicle over - that it’s a wonder anyone decides to take a pass on what should be an annual ritual.
And yet too many skip the shot, and the flu snakes its way through offices, schools and shopping malls throughout the region, infecting thousands of people who might otherwise have escaped the winter with a glancing cold or two.
The consequences could be more dire this year, as health officials are predicting a tough several months.
“There are some indications this could be a very bad flu season,” Dr. Larry Madoff, medical director of the state Department of Public Health, said last week. Madoff urged vaccinations for anyone older than 6 months, adding that there is plenty of vaccine available.
The disease generally begins to spread at the beginning of the holidays and peaks around January or February. Folks just beginning to think of spring are felled by sore throat, cough, high fever and body aches. And when they go to work or school, they infect their colleagues and classmates. And it’s no joke.
“Flu is a very serious illness, and every year in Massachusetts there are thousands of cases and hundreds of hospitalizations and (also) deaths,” Madoff said.
More than 80,000 people died from complications from the flu during a particularly bad season two years ago, and already this year a 4-year-old in California has died. There are also the hundreds of thousands of man hours lost as folks are forced to stay home from work to recuperate.
The news isn’t all bad. Doctors say October is the best time to get a flu shot - it’s far enough ahead of the season to have time to work, and not so early its effects will wear off.
And there are flu shot clinics everywhere. Municipalities across the region are hosting them throughout the month; a quick call to your city or town hall can get you the dates. And those sessions, and many others, are co-pay free, so all you have to do is show up in short sleeves carrying your insurance or Medicare card.
The vaccine isn’t a silver bullet - the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it will stave off between 40% and 60% of illnesses compared with those who are not vaccinated. But those aren’t bad odds.
As David Shay, a medical officer at the CDC, told WBUR last week, “50% isn’t great but it’s better than 0%.”
We agree. Get the shot.