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Take no chances on the flu this year

It’s the season that everyone would like to forget – flu season.

But it’s too dangerous to ignore, especially when you consider just what the flu can cause: High fever, headaches, chills, body aches, extreme fatigue, and sore throat – a general feeling of lousiness that can last a week or more.

If this reminder and last year’s nasty flu season haven’t caught your attention, startling new research on the flu in children should.

The new research comes from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and is pertinent for all parents. The study – based on a first-of-its-kind analysis of all flu deaths in children since October 2004 – shows that healthy children who contract the flu may get even sicker and die faster than those with high-risk medical conditions.

Over the eight-year study period, 43 percent of the children who died had no preexisting so-called “high risk” conditions (like asthma, cerebral palsy, or congenital heart disease, among others) known to elevate children’s vulnerability to complications of the flu.

Simply put, the flu can strike anyone. Some of the most serious cases can occur in people who were previously healthy.

The flu can keep us from work or school for days at a time as it wipes away our energy and leaves us feeling miserable. What’s even more concerning is that this common illness can quickly turn very serious. About 90 percent of children who died last season had not been vaccinated, and most of them died within one week of onset of the illness. There’s a simple way to protect yourself and your children: get a flu shot.

Make a pledge to do this for yourself and for your friends, neighbors, colleagues and classmates. If each does his part, we make our community a safer place to call home.

Only 56 percent of children and 41 percent of adults were vaccinated during last year’s flu season, when cases of the flu reached their highest numbers in years.

There’s a lot of speculation about what this year’s flu season might look like. While we can’t control the virus entirely, we can certainly reduce everyone’s risk by getting our annual flu shots.

Kenneth Fox is a pediatrician at NorthShore University HealthSystem.

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