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State health officials urge residents to get a flu shot as soon as possible

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Flu shot
Stacy Fox of Maplewood, left, receives a seasonal influenza vaccine from Karen Schirmer at the HealthPartners Midway Clinic in St. Paul in August 2009.
Jeffrey Thompson | MPR News 2009

With fall comes flu vaccine season. Minnesota health officials are calling on state residents to get immunized against the flu.

The recent death of a California child from flu complications is adding urgency to the message.

Jennifer Heath of the Minnesota Health Department’s Vaccine-Preventable Disease team said the flu season could begin anytime. Heath said only about half of the people eligible get the flu vaccine. She said if more people got immunized, fewer people would get sick — even people who don’t get vaccinated.

"Flu vaccine is tremendously beneficial on a population level,” Heath said. “Flu disease is very common, and we actually prevent a lot of disease and sickness and hospitalization and things like disability when we vaccinate."

Heath said the flu vaccine is widely available. It's recommended for almost everyone six months of age and older. A nasal mist is available for people ages 2 through 49.

Heath said the vaccine was only about 50 percent effective during the last flu season. Still, public health officials say people are better off with the vaccination than without it.

State health officials say 2,522 people in Minnesota were hospitalized with confirmed influenza during the last flu season; 126 influenza-related deaths were reported. Health officials confirmed two children died from influenza-related complications.