The importance of getting a flu shot

Other than avoiding people who may have been traveling internationally, there is not much you can do to avoid catching COVID-19, the coronavirus disease that has been in the headlines.

There is something you can do to avoid coming down with common influenza, however: Get a flu shot.

Doing so is more important than you may realize. For one thing, as health care professionals have pointed out, if you get the shot and later come down with flu-like symptoms, it can enable them to rule out one possibility for your illness.

But strictly gaining a immunity to the flu is more important now than during some recent years.

Already this year, about 26 million Americans have come down with the flu, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About 1% of them have had to be hospitalized — and the flu has been blamed for 14,000 deaths in our country. That is roughly four times the COVID-19 toll globally.

“We have not yet peaked for influenza. We are still on our way up,” Dr. David Weber, an infectious disease expert at the University of North Carolina, told The Associated Press. The situation may be different in other regions, of course, but the fact remains that flu continues to be a major health threat.

Flu shots are readily available. Most insurance policies cover them. For those without insurance and unable to pay out of pocket, some public health departments may be able to help.

Get the shot as soon as possible. COVID-19 may be making the headlines, but in some ways, the flu is an even greater hazard.