Flu season unpredictable - MSNewsNow.com - Jackson, MS

Start preparing now for flu season

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JACKSON, MS (Mississippi News Now) -

Health officials say Mississippians need to prepare for flu season.

It generally doesn't get rolling for another month or so, but experts say the one predictable thing about the flu is its tendency to be unpredictable.

Doctors say now is the time to get the flu vaccine. That's because it can take up to two weeks to be fully immunized. Last year, flu season came early and with a vengeance.

"Influenza activity started earlier than usual, was intense, and remained elevated for 15 consecutive weeks," said Dr. Howard Koh with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Last flu season, 164 children died from the flu even though the number of children who received the vaccine was higher than ever.

Just 51 percent of pregnant women, a group especially vulnerable to flu complications, got the shot.

"Pregnant women -- more than half vaccinated -- but let's get the other half," said Dr. Anne Schuchat with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Infectious disease experts are also encouraging healthcare workers to get vaccinated not only to help protect themselves but also their patients.

There are more flu vaccine options than ever this year. Some protect against three flu strains. Some protect against four. Others are formulated especially for people who have egg allergies.

Companies expect to make more than 135 million doses this year. You can log onto vaccines.gov to find flu shot providers closest to you.

County health clinics in Mississippi are also offering flu vaccinations. The costs are $10 for children six months to 18 years old; $25 for adults; and specialized, immune boosting shots are offered to people over 65 years of age and are covered by Medicare Part B.

More information is available on the Mississippi State Department of Health website.

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