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Are you at risk for the flu?

Julie Kraut is a freelance writer and the author of Slept Away and Hot Mess. Visit JulieKraut.com for more.




Get smart, not sick

'Tis the season to be, well, sick. That's right: Flu season is upon us, and right about now is the time to start thinking about vaccination. But is vaccination for you? Are you even at risk for the flu?

Adult woman getting vaccine

The short answer is an undeniable yes. According to Jacob Hargrave of Everybodysafe.com, a personal emergency communication service, everyone is going to be exposed to the flu virus at some point this flu season. Even fit, healthy adults can become victims of the virus and could be left feeling far less than fit and healthy for several weeks. 

Up your flu smarts and keep these guidelines in mind.

Stop the spread

The flu spreads via the droplets ejected when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks. You can contract the virus through inhaling the droplets or picking up the germs from an infected surface and then transferring them to an entry point of your body, such as your mouth, nose or eyes. With transmission being as easy as touching an elevator button and then rubbing your eye, it's easy to see that everybody's at risk for catching the flu.

High-risk groups

The Mayo Clinic has identified a few groups as particularly susceptible to contracting the flu virus: Pregnant women, children aged 6 months to 19 years, adults 50 or older, anyone with a chronic medical condition such as asthma, diabetes or kidney or lung disease, and anyone with a weakened immune system resulting from medications or HIV infection.

In addition to age and health, work and living situations can increase the potential for infection. Residents of nursing homes and long-term care facilities as well as childcare workers also are considered high risk.

Flu.gov, a government site dedicated to providing flu information, classifies an even broader range of individuals who should receive flu vaccination. Young adults between 19 and 24 years are listed as high need for the vaccine because they frequently live, work and study in environments that facilitate the spread of viruses.

All healthcare and emergency medical personnel are identified as needing the vaccine, as well, because they have contact with high-risk individuals and because absenteeism among medical professionals could have calamitous effects on the healthcare system.

Those in close contact with an infant under the age of 6 months should receive the vaccination, too, because the vaccine is not approved for babies less than 6 months. With no vaccination and an undeveloped immune system, a baby is highly susceptible to the virus and should be cocooned from the disease by interacting only with vaccinated people. 

Flu shot facts

While these groups have been labeled as the highest risk sets, a vaccine shortage this flu season is not anticipated, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is encouraging everyone to get vaccinated as early in the season as possible.

The bottom line is that the only group of people who are at less risk for the flu are those who are vaccinated. Flu shots are available at your doctor's office and at local pharmacies.

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