A nurse prepares an injection of the influenza vaccine at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts (Photo : Reuters)
The 2012-2013 flu season continues to afflict the vast majority of states in the U.S., with up to 47 states reporting widespread influenza-like-illnesses (ILI) by January 5. The sharp rise in cases accounted for six states reaching widespread infection status since the Center for Disease Control's last assessment, issued just a week prior to its latest update.
Yet, it's not too late to get a flu shot.
Specifically, health professionals strongly advise people over the age of 65, pregnant women, and those with chronic medical conditions like lung disease, diabetes, and asthma to seek out local clinics as soon as possible, as they are at the most risk.
As the CDC explains, the flu shot contains a killed version of the virus, cultivated to protect against the three most prominent influenza viruses of the season. A nasal spray is also available, but only for people between the ages of 2 through 49 "who are not pregnant."
Serious complications from the flu shot are rare, however people with egg allergies, a history of reactions to past influenza injections, or those who have ever experienced Gullain-Barre Symdrome should consult with their doctors.
Minor side effects include aches, low grade fever, or soreness and swelling around the area the shot was administered. "Almost all people who get influenza vaccine have no serious problems from it," asserts the CDC. Although uncommon, some also experience discomfort and weakness, fever, and muscle pain.
Anyone over the age of six months is eligible for the flu shot.