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It's time to roll up your sleeve for a flu shot

National Public Radio

It's time to roll up your sleeve, or expose that shoulder, and bite hard as the flu shot needle goes into your skin.

Erie County Health Commissioner Dr. Gale Burstein is careful to make sure people know there is always flu in the county, although the State Health Department doesn't count cases for much of the summer season. The rest of the year, it urges vaccinations.

Flu can be a deadly disease, fatal in some situations, and that is why the annual push for vaccinations.

"It is a real risk for our seniors. It's also a real risk for our very young population, children under the age of two. The younger the more serious the complications can be," Burstein said. "It can also be serious complications in people who have other chronic illnesses, like chronic lung disease or heart disease or diabetes."

Burstein said people don't realize how long and variable the flu season actually is.

"Last year's flu season, the numbers weren't as high as the year before, however, it lasted much longer than previous years," she said. "So last year in Erie County, our peak flu didn't occur until about the middle of March."

Burstein said there are a lot of myths out there about flu and flu shots. She said one myth is that the vaccination can cause the flu.

"When somebody gets the influenza vaccine around the same time they get a cold, that means there is a temporal association, but the association is not cause and effect," she said. "It is biologically impossible to get influenza from the influenza vaccine. Also, when people get a cold, that is not influenza. Influenza is a very serious infection."

Another myth is that the shot isn't completely effective. The doctor agrees that it has some problems, but it's a choice between not feeling well because it didn't protect completely or being hammered by the flu bug for up to 10 days.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.