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An estimated 200,000 Americans are hospitalized each year
for flu-like symptoms and complications from influenza
kill approximately 36,000 during the average “flu season”
. Although the common virus is
taken lightly by many, public health officials consider it the largest cause of
death from a preventable infectious disease, reports the Ellsworth
. One of the biggest problems with the flu is that it is highly
contagious, and many people choose to go to work when they’re sick due to
pressure from employers or a fear of lost income.

The Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention recommend
s, along with hand washing and
prescribed antiviral drugs, that Americans take the time to get a flu shot,
and, in 2008, a record number of Americans took the advice and got the vaccine.
However, because there are many strands of the influenza virus, the
effectiveness of the flu shot each year depends on how well doctors,
scientists, and drug companies are able to predict which strands will be
circulating the coming year.

This year, the elevated number of reported cases of
influenza can be attributed, in part, to a flu vaccine that was
less than 50% effective
, a big drop from the 70-90% we expect in a good

In Maine, increased flu outbreaks have been reported in
hospitals, schools, and retirement homes across the state, and, although there
are influenza-related deaths every year, it is most commonly the chronically
ill and very elderly who are affected. This year, however, Maine public health
officials believe the flu is responsible for the deaths
of at least one child and two young adults

The bottom line: Don’t take
risks with your health or the health of others by going to school or work with
flu-like symptoms.Take a look at this list of good health
habits for preventing seasonal flu.

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