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It's been a bad year for the flu and other viruses. Feverish, weak, hacking victims of the flu have swamped emergency rooms all over the country. Nevada hasn't been hit as hard as colder states, but public health officials are still on alert. Dr. Nancy Williams, Southern Nevada Health District senior scientist, tells you how to stay healthy.

Will getting a flu shot help?

The shot is not perfect, so it’s not going to cover everybody, keep them 100 percent from getting sick. But it’s pretty effective, and this year’s flu vaccination contains the strain that is the most prevalent among the states that have been having flu so far. So there’s a good chance that it will protect people from either catching the flu at all, or catching a very severe case, if they do get it.

Who should get the shot?

We really recommend everyone over six months of age get it, but there are some particular age groups and people with certain health statuses who are particularly recommended. Anyone whose conditions are vulnerable to complications and that would include very young children, people older than 65, pregnant women, people with a chronic medical condition, which could be heart disease and certainly respiratory problems, like emphysema. These would be indications that it would be very important to get the flu vaccine.

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Will getting the shot give me the flu?

The flu vaccine is very safe; it does not give people the flu. Either the flu mist or the injection has never been found to be transmitting any illness. What happens is, it takes a couple of weeks to build up the immune reaction that lets your body fight the influenza virus when it hits you. If you happen to be exposed to the to the virus before immunity has taken effect, then certainly you can still just on random chance become ill right after you get the flu shot. But that would be a statistical coincidence, not something that was caused by the vaccine itself.

Are there dangerous complications that you can get from influenza?

It tends to be people who are susceptive to illness anyway (who are vulnerable). So if you already have a lung disorder that prevents you from clearing mucus or clearing bacteria, that sort of thing, you’re more susceptible, if you get congested from something like the flu, to develop other infections along with it. Perhaps developing pneumonia. Mostly its people who don’t have the stronger immune systems to start with are at risk.

What’s the top recommendation for avoiding the flu?

The flu shot is really the number one recommendation. There are, of course, other things we can do. One of the important ones is just wash your hands frequently. This protects you, not just against influenza, but also stomach viruses and other respiratory illnesses. Avoid rubbing your eyes and touching your face because you can transmit the virus from your hands to parts of you where it is likely to infect you.

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