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Health officials urge early flu vaccinations

By Véronique LaCapra, St. Louis Public Radio

ST. LOUIS – Flu season is just around the corner, and health officials say it's not too soon to get vaccinated.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone over the age of six months get the influenza vaccine.

St. Louis County Department of Health epidemiology specialist Eleanor Peters said that this year, the seasonal influenza vaccine contains the 2009 H1N1 flu strain.

"So this year you only need to get one vaccine whereas last year if you wanted full protection you should have gotten the seasonal influenza vaccine as well as the H1N1 vaccine," Peters said.

Peters also said that pregnant women and children under the age of three must get a preservative-free version of the vaccine.

Saint Louis University infectious disease expert Dr. Sharon Frey said that the influenza vaccine is safe, typically causing only mild side effects that last a couple of days.

"The side effects that people typically experience are maybe a little fever or aches and pains, or soreness at the injection site," Frey said.

Frey said the people at greatest risk from the flu include pregnant women, children, the elderly, and people with underlying chronic health problems.

Getting vaccinated can reduce the chances of getting the flu by 70 to 90 percent for healthy adults and lower the risk of severe complications for everyone.

Flu-related websites
>>Saint Louis County Department of Health

>>City of Saint Louis Department of Health

>>Centers for Disease Control

>>National flu vaccine locator

>>American Lung Association flu vaccine locator