A doctor gives an elderly woman a flu vaccination.

As winter approaches and flu season is nears full swing, local hospitals are urging people to protect themselves, their families and their communities by getting vaccinated.

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Peconic Bay Medical Center cautions that refusing to be vaccinated could have life-threatening consequences to your health and the health of those with whom you have contact, including your coworkers, your family and the community.

While most people who contract the flu have mild symptoms, children under five, adults age 65 and older and pregnant woman are at high risk of developing serious complications from the disease. More than 200,000 Americans will be hospitalized by the flu this year; of those, 36,000 will die.

Individuals who contract influenza can spread the virus for 24-48 hours before flu symptoms appear. Even though symptoms can be mild or non-existent, the virus can spread severe and potentially life-threatening illness to others.

The Center for Disease Control reports flu seasons are unpredictable in a number of ways. While flu spreads every year without fail, the timing, severity, and length of the season usually varies from one season to another. The strains of virus that cause influenza infection change almost every year, which is why a different influenza vaccine is recommended each year according to the CDC.

The CDC outlines these tips for preventing the spread of flu this season:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick. When you are sick, keep your distance from others to protect them from getting sick too. Stay home when you are sick, if possible.  Limiting exposure to others the flu is essential in containing its spread.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. If tissues are not available  cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve or elbow, not your hands. It may prevent those around you from getting sick.
  • Washing your hands often will help protect you from germs. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.

Where can I get my flu shot?

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