I got a flu shot to protect myself and my loved ones

Staff Writer
Gonzales Weekly Citizen
Lisa Yates, editor

If you're like me, you've been seeing those signs all over town about flu shots. I decided to drop in at St. Elizabeth and get one.

I wasn't really sure where to go for the shot, so I went inside the hospital to ask one of the receptionists. In case you're looking, it's the St. Elizabeth Physicians building across from the emergency room, in Suite 100.

When I arrived I told the receptionist I was there to get a flu shot. She had a form for me to fill out and sign. After waiting a few minutes, I was called back to an exam room and given a shot in the arm. It didn't hurt. Really.

That's the reason I went to St. Elizabeth. I was told they use tiny needles, which is good for folks like me because I don't like getting shots.

I'm not a doctor, so I can't tell you to go out and get a flu shot but the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that everyone over six months of age receive a flu shot, especially the very young and the elderly.

Influenza is a contagious respiratory disease that can lead to serious complications, hospitalization or even death. According to the CDC, flu-related deaths range from 3,300 to 48,600 (average 23,000) annually. That average is close to the number of people who died from auto accidents last year. (The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that 32,210 people were killed in car crashes in 2011.)

We can protect ourselves against the flu with a vaccination. Flu season usually begins in October and can last through May. Right now, there is very little seasonal flu activity. Let's keep it that way and get vaccinated.

While it is important for everyone, it is especially important for you if you fall into one of these groups:

• Pregnant women

• Children younger than age 5, but especially younger than age 2

• People age 50 and older

• People any age with certain chronic medical conditions

• People who live in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities

• Health care workers

• Household contacts of persons at high risk of developing complications from the flu

• Caregivers of children less than 6 months of age (these children are too young to be vaccinated)

I fall into the "People age 50 and older" category, which means I have a higher risk of developing complications from the flu.

During the regular flu season, 90 percent of the deaths occur in people age 65 and older. While I'm not quite there yet, I am expecting my first grandchild in October. By getting a flu shot, I'm helping to keep him healthy. I'm sure you have reasons to get a flu shot, too.

Of course, it isn't a one-size-fits-all vaccine. The CDC said you should NOT get a flu shot if you fall into one of these categories:

• Children younger than 6 months of age

• People with a severe allergy to chicken eggs

• People who have had a severe reaction to an influenza vaccination in the past

• People who have a moderate-to-severe illness with a fever (they should wait to get vaccinated)

• People who developed Gullian-Barre syndrome (GBS) within 6 weeks of getting an influenza vaccine previously

If you have questions about whether you should get a flu vaccine, consult with your doctor.

One thing everybody can do to prevent the spread of illness is handwashing. Clean hands can stop germs from spreading from one person to another and throughout an entire community.

According to the CDC's handwashing website, this is the proper technique:

• Wet your hands with clean running water (warm or cold) and apply soap

• Rub your hands together to make a lather and scrub them well; be sure to scrub the backs of your hands, between your fingers and under your nails

• Continue rubbing your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the "Happy Birthday" song from beginning to end twice

• Rinse your hands well under running water

• Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry

Please don't tell me that handwashing is basic. I have seen too many people leaving the ladies room at movie theaters without washing their hands. I hear it's even worse in the men's room.

Lisa Yates is the editor ofGonzales Weekly Citizen. Follow her on Twitter @Lisa_editor.