Riley Heruska
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School has started, and believe it not, cooler weather is on its way. Even we Texans will start to feel the effects of autumn sooner or later. With the new academic year comes football games, fall clothing, and of course.... the dreaded flu. Although cases of the influenza virus typically don't peak until December, we'll probably start seeing cases pretty soon. So, when do you really need to start worrying about the 2017 flu season? 

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the answer is now. Flu season can be unpredictable, and the best way to prevent the spread of influenza is to knock it out early. Officials recommend that everyone over the age of six months receive a flu vaccine before the end of October. It often takes the vaccine up to two weeks to start protecting your body, so the earlier the immunization, the better. Plus, the vaccine's protection won't wear off until next spring, so there really is no reason to wait. 

Last year, less than half of the people in the U.S. got their flu shots, and that's a huge problem. 104 children died from the flu, and the majority of those were never vaccinated. It's not just about protecting yourself; it's also about protecting those around you. Not everyone can receive a flu shot, and when people who can be vaccinated fail to get the shot, it allows the influenza virus to spread throughout communities. Less vaccinated citizens mean increased chances of infecting infants, pregnant women, and people with medical conditions. Bottom line: help yourself and others by getting vaccinated against the flu. 

Another reason to grab your shot ASAP? Some experts are anticipating a severe flu season in 2017 based on Australia's recent flu season, which precedes the one in Europe and the United States. 73 people died in Australia after catching the flu, and public health experts say that this year's flu might be more resistant to vaccines and might strongly affect the elderly. Although predictions regarding the flu can never be certain, experts definitely encourage everyone to protect themselves as soon as possible. 

Worried about not feeling great after your vaccine? You probably won't even feel under the weather. Bad reactions to the flu shot are extremely rare, and it's nearly impossible to actually catch the influenza virus from getting the preventative shot. 

Finding a place to get your flu shot usually isn't too hard. Local drug stores, doctor's offices, and hospitals near you might already have them in stock. They aren't too expensive, either. You might not even pay more than $30 for one vaccine. That's a low cost for several months of protection for you and your loved ones.

This year, substituting the nasal spray for the vaccine isn't an option. The CDC determined that it was ineffective, and it won't be offered anywhere. That means even people who hate needles are going to have to face a regular vaccine, but it's important to take a deep breath and get it over with for the sake of your health and those around you.

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