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Say 'Bye to Summer, Hello to Flu Vaccine

It's that time of year again, and government officials and vaccine manufacturers are already ready for the upcoming flu -- provided there are no surprises like last year's H1N1 flu virus.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved vaccines for the expected upcoming influenza season. This year's dose -- you'll only need one shot this season -- will protect against three strains of flu, including the H1N1 flu virus that caused the pandemic last year. And you can get immunized at a doctor's office, drug store clinic or local health clinic.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), between five and 20 percent of Americans catch the flu every year, and approximately 36,000 people die as a result. The best way to protect yourself against influenza is to get vaccinated annually.

And remember: just because there was virtually no seasonal flu last season and H1N1 (swine flu) wasn't as deadly as feared, what there was hit kids particularly hard. As a precautionary measure, officials say everyone six months and older should still get vaccinated.

The flu season doesn't officially begin until October and it peaks in January. But the process of vaccinating everyone begins in September, when doses are shipped to healthcare providers.

For more information on the flu, go to www.cdc.gov/flu. To get vaccinated, call your doctor, local health department or drug store.

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