Fever, cough, muscle aches. Influenza season is here. But there is a way to dodge the dreaded illness.

The N.D. Department of Health urges everyone 6 months old and older to get an influenza immunization every year to not only avoid getting the influenza, but to keep it from spreading to family members, according to Molly Howell, immunization program manager with the N.D. Department of Health, Division of Disease Control.

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“People should get an influenza immunization as soon as it becomes available and ideally before November,” she said. “It’s also never too late to get the immunization.”

An annual vaccination is the most effective way to avoid the flu.

Howell also addressed some myths about the flu vaccine.

“Some people think that you can get the flu from the flu vaccine and that’s not the case,” Howell said. “People also have the misconception that the flu isn’t that serious, but every year we have a number of hospitalizations and deaths in North Dakota, so the flu is definitely a serious illness.”

“Even if you don’t want to get it for yourself, get it for those around you,” she urged.

“There are certain people who are at higher risk of complications due to influenza who should not miss getting their flu vaccine. That includes children, pregnant women, anyone that has an immune-compromising condition and adults 50 and older,” Howell said.

Vaccines are available at doctor offices, local public health offices or at most pharmacies.

Last year, North Dakota had 8,498 reported cases of influenza.

In addition to vaccination, the N.D. Department of Health also recommends frequent hand washing, covering coughs and sneezes and staying home when you are sick to prevent spread of influenza. Common signs and symptoms of influenza include abrupt onset of fever, muscle aches, sore throat and cough.

Luann Dart is a freelance writer and editor who lives in the Elgin area