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What's New With the Flu?

You might have heard that there was a shortage of flu vaccine earlier this year. You may have even held off on getting your shot because of this. But supplies of the vaccine have increased recently - and there are now lots of flu shots available in many places. So this may be the time to get your shot if you need one.

If the vaccine is available, everyone, including all kids and teens, should consider getting one. That's because there are still 2 or 3 months left in the flu season - in other words, there is plenty of time for the flu to affect more people. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that this year's flu vaccine contains many of the strains of flu that are going around right now. In other words, the vaccine has a better chance of protecting you against the flu this year than some of the vaccines in past years.

If you need or want to get a flu shot, check with your doctor's office or ask your school nurse about getting the vaccine.

Even if you don't get the vaccine, there are things you can do during flu outbreaks to reduce the chances you'll get the flu. Washing your hands often and avoiding crowds are two things you can do to protect yourself. And if close friends or family members get the flu, tell these people to wash their hands a lot and use tissues whenever they sneeze or cough to avoid spreading the virus. And throw away tissues right after you use them.

Here's an interesting flu fact: In theory, because fewer people got the vaccine this year, there's a chance more people could be exposed to - and get sick from - the flu. The more people who get sick, the more rapidly a virus spreads throughout the population because the coughing and sneezing that these sick people do help to spread the virus. When people are vaccinated (immunized), fewer people get these symptoms of flu. That's another reason why health officials encourage people to get vaccinated against diseases and infections: The more people who have immunity to a condition, the slower it will spread - even among people who haven't been immunized. It's something that medical experts call "herd immunity."

For more information on the flu, flu season, and which teens need to get the flu shot, read these articles:

Who Needs a Flu Shot?
Flu Facts
What to Do if You Get the Flu