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Officials prepare for flu season

Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital employees line up Oct. 1, 2012 for flu shots. The vaccine is recommended for those six months and older as the most effective way of preventing the illness.

Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital employees line up Oct. 1, 2012 for flu shots. The vaccine is recommended for those six months and older as the most effective way of preventing the illness.

ALBANY, Ga. — As temperatures start to dip, one of the things on many people’s minds this time of year is flu season.

This year will be no exception.

Per recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, everyone who is at least six months of age is encouraged get a flu vaccine this season. Officials say it is especially important for certain people to get vaccinated — including people who are at high risk of developing serious complications if they get sick with the flu, such as those with chronic conditions, pregnant women and people 65 years of age or older.

People who live with or care for others who are at high risk of developing serious complications are also strongly encouraged to get the vaccine. Among those who fall into this group are health care workers, prompting Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital to officially kick off its flu shot campaign on Monday in an effort to begin inoculating its employees as well as educate those within their inner circles.

“This is good not only for the work force, but good for those who trust us and their families,” said Phoebe CEO Joel Wernick.

The hospital is mandating that all those working there in any capacity receive a flu shot, including its volunteers, Phoebe officials say.

Experts say the flu vaccine is needed every year because flu viruses are constantly changing, so it is not uncommon for new flu viruses to appear each year. The flu vaccine is formulated each year to keep up with the flu viruses as they change.

“Of the things we do in the medical field, one of the most important things we do is vaccinations,” said Dr. Carlos Franco, an infectious disease specialist with Phoebe.

“The vaccine is safe and effective. Unless you have a good reason not to get it, such as an egg allergy, you should get it.”

Flu activity most commonly peaks in the United States in January or February, but seasonal flu activity can begin in October and continue to occur as late as May. The 2011-2012 season began late and was relatively mild compared with previous seasons, CDC officials say.

It takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop in the body and provide protection against the flu, CDC officials say.

The vaccination supply for this flu season became available to the Southwest Public Health District in September.