Autumn is a time for enjoying cooler weather, fall sports and a steady stream of holidays. But with it comes coughing, sneezing and fever that marks the start of the flu season.

Be Local means protecting your family and friends as well as yourself by getting a flu shot.

Pennsylvania’s Dept. of Health has been issuing reminders to the pubic for the past month.

“The flu is serious and can be deadly, which is why it is so important for everyone to take the proper precautions to protect themselves, their loved ones and anyone they meet,” Dr. Rachel Levine, state Secretary of Health, said in a release.

She stressed, “Last year, we had more than 122,000 cases statewide and 258 deaths. It is imperative that you get your flu vaccine now so you can be protected throughout the flu season. There is no better measure to protect yourself than to get a flu vaccine.”

The Centers for Disease Control noted on its website that every flu season is different and influenza can affect every person in a different way.

“An annual seasonal flu vaccine is the best way to help protect against flu,’’ the CDC advised. “Vaccination has been shown to have many benefits including reducing the risk of flu illnesses, hospitalizations and even the risk of flu-related death in children.’’

Those benefits include protecting those more vulnerable to serious flu illness, like babies and young children, older people, and people with certain chronic health conditions.

And Levine explained the flu vaccine can often diminish the severity of symptoms a person might experience should they come down with the flu.

Officials make it easy for the public to receive a flu shot. They are available at doctors’ offices, pharmacies, clinics and grocery stores.

The state Dept. of Health reported the flu nasal spray is also available this year, and both are recommended to protect against the flu.

Everyone six months and older should receive the flu vaccine each season, say medical officials, noting it takes about two weeks for the antibodies from the vaccine to develop protection against infection.

The state also advises practicing healthy habits, such as “covering your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze, frequently washing your hands during flu season and remembering to disinfect commonly-touched objects, such as door knobs, light switches, countertops, cell phones and computers.’’

Influenza is a contagious disease that attacks the nose, throat and lungs with symptoms that may include fever, headache, tiredness, dry cough, sore throat, nasal congestion and body aches, the state explained.

“If you do become sick with the flu, it is important to stay home and rest,’’ the state recommends. “If you are at risk for developing serious complications from the flu, or feel extremely ill, you should see a medical professional immediately.’’

More information is available at www.health.pa.gov.

Those interested in joining the Be Local Network can call 724-425-7515 or email swallach@heraldstandard.com. Discount cards are available at the Herald-Standard, 8 E. Church St., Uniontown, and at the Greene County Messenger, 32 Church St., Waynesburg.

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