It’s never too early or too late to get vaccinated for influenza – otherwise known as “the flu”. 
“I recommend adults and children receive the flu vaccine well ahead of flu season which can begin as early as October and usually peaks in January or February. However the flu may continue to occur as late as May,” said Lisa Williams, registered nurse and Siloam Springs Regional Hospital Emergency Department director.
Influenza is caused by a virus affecting the throat, nose and lungs and is transmitted through tiny aerosol droplets which fly through the air when an infected person talks, sneezes or coughs.
Every year more than 200,000 people in the United States are hospitalized because of the flu. Influenza can cause life-threatening complications and severe illness in some individuals.
How the flu vaccine works
One of the best ways to prevent the flu is a flu vaccination each fall. 
The vaccine is made from a killed virus which is then injected (flu shot) or inhaled (nasal spray). The body’s immune system recognizes a foreign substance is present. The body then creates antibodies – or proteins that attach to the virus. The antibodies signal the immune system to destroy and attack the virus. The process of generating antibodies takes about two weeks.
Then, if a live virus enters your body – the immune system responds and destroys it. However, the flu virus changes every year so last year’s antibodies won’t protect you from the flu this year which makes an annual flu shot necessary.
The vaccine for the 2013-14 flu season is designed to protect against influenza viruses that research indicates will be most common. Trivalent vaccines – or traditional flu vaccines – are created to prevent against three flu viruses: influenza A (H1N1) virus; influenza A (H3N2) virus; and influenza B virus. In addition to these viruses, this season there are flu vaccines to protect against four flu viruses called quadrivalent vaccines. These vaccines protect against the trivalent viruses as well as an additional B virus. The vaccine is not guaranteed to prevent the flu, but it does minimize the chances of contracting the flu virus. And, if you do get the flu – the vaccine will help minimize the symptoms.
What types of vaccines are there?
Currently, there are two types of vaccinations available:
• Flu shot – When a patient receives a flu shot, a dead virus is administered – usually in the arm. The shot is approved for those ages 6 months and older, for healthy people and for those with chronic medical conditions.
• Nasal spray – The nasal-spray vaccine is made with a live, weakened flu virus – but does not cause the flu. The vaccine is approved for healthy people ages 5 to 49 that are not pregnant.
Most flu is spread through direct contact, so it is extremely important to regularly wash hands with warm, soapy water. Also, avoid contact with the face, mouth and eyes. Always use a clean tissue when sneezing and discard used ones. If a tissue is not available, sneeze away from others and into the crook of your arm.
Who should be vaccinated?
“According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), everyone who is at least 6 months of age should be vaccinated for the flu,” Williams said.
Williams points out it is especially important for some people to receive a vaccination including:
• Those at high risk for developing complications – such as pneumonia – if they get the flu
• Those with certain medical conditions including asthma, diabetes and chronic lung disease
• Pregnant women
• Children younger than 5 and especially those younger than 2
• People ages 65 and older
• Those living or caring for others that are at high risk for developing serious complications.
This includes household contacts, caregivers of infants less than 6 months old and healthcare personnel.
“The Oct. 25 flu clinic gives the community a perfect opportunity to get vaccinated quickly and conveniently,” Williams said. “We’re looking forward to supporting the members of our community and protecting them against the flu.”
Who should not be vaccinated?
“Some people should consult their physicians before getting the flu vaccine,” Williams said. These include:
• Those that had a severe reaction to a flu vaccination
• Children younger than 6 months of age
• Those that have a moderate-to-severe illness, with or without a fever should wait to get a vaccine until they have recovered
• Anyone that has ever had a severe allergic reaction to eggs
• Anyone that has had a severe allergy to any part of the vaccine.

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