Students: Go get a flu shot

With three flu-realted deaths, health officials urge vaccination.

Local heath officials have renewed their appeal for parents to vaccinate their children after the death of two more Minnesotan children because of the flu. The latest deaths involved an 8-year-old and a 17-month-old and join the death of a Ramsey County 8-year-old, which was the first child-related death from influenza in two years. None of the children had received an influenza vaccine for the current influenza season. With the tragic influenza news this past week, getting immunized is still a good idea.

The deaths occurred between Jan. 18 and Feb. 1, which is typically when the flu season reaches its peak in Minnesota. In fact, flu outbreaks were suspected in 95 schools last week across the state. This year already, state officials have received 224 reports of suspected school outbreaks. The amount is a little alarming considering there were 199 reports in all of the previous flu season.

The three deaths serve to underscore that influenza always has the potential to be a very serious illness, even fatal. With all the talk centering around the bird flu this season, people have forgotten that the “regular” flu kills about 40,000 people a year in the United States. Even though these deaths do not necessarily mean there is anything unusual about this season’s flu, it is better to be safe and get vaccinated. All three victims had a strain of the virus that is covered by this year’s vaccine.

The influenza vaccine remains in ample supply. Organizations such as Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota and the Visiting Nurse Association have organized special flu shot clinics in response to the deaths, with new clinics being added to the list.

While it takes two to three weeks to gain full protection, the influenza shot starts to take effect the moment it is injected. Especially since we are not experiencing any vaccine shortages this year, there is no reason not to get the shot. Boynton Health Service will be holding walk-in flu clinics every day until Feb. 16 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.