Now is a great time to get your flu vaccine! It takes about two weeks for your body to respond to the vaccine. Getting a vaccination now means you should reach your full immunity by the holidays. Influenza season is just getting underway in Minnesota.

December 3rd through the 9th is National Influenza Vaccination Week. Flu vaccinations are available at a wide variety of places: medical clinics, pharmacies, Countryside Public Health and retail settings.

Influenza vaccination is recommended for everyone six months and older unless they cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons. It is especially important that those at high risk for complications from influenza be vaccinated. These include pregnant women, elderly, young children and those with chronic medical conditions.

Children under six months of age cannot receive influenza vaccine, so parent, other household contacts and caretakers should be vaccinated to protect these infants.

Influenza is a disease that can have serious consequences. The best way to reduce your risk of serious illness is with vaccination. While the vaccine doesn't offer perfect protection, if you don't get vaccinated, you have zero protection. The vaccine effectively prevents about half of influenza cases in healthy adults and even more in children. Unfortunately, protection may be less in those with weakened immune systems, including the elderly, making it even more important for their contacts to be vaccinated.

The symptoms of influenza, which tend to come on suddenly, can include a sore throat, coughing, fever, headache, muscle aches and fatigue. People who become severely ill with influenza-like symptoms should see a physician. Influenza is caused by a virus and antibiotics are not effective against it. During flu season, besides getting vaccinated, precautions people can take to avoid spreading or catching influenza:

• Do your best to stay healthy. Get plenty of rest, physical activity, and healthy eating.

• Stay home from school or work if you have a respiratory infection. Avoid exposing yourself to others who are sick with flu-like illness.

• Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue whenever you cough or sneeze, and then throw the tissue away. If you don't have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your sleeve.

• Clean surfaces you touch frequently, such as doorknobs, water faucets, refrigerator handles, and telephones.

• Wash your hands often with soap and water or with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer when soap and water are not available.

So if you haven’t had a flu vaccination this flu season, now is a great time to do so. Countryside Public Health has a program for those without insurance coverage and for those with insurance we will bill your insurance company. Call our office at 320-654-3010 to schedule an appointment or if you have questions.