(10/11/2012)
Health officials are urging Americans to start thinking about their flu vaccine for the upcoming 2012-2013 influenza season.

Though last year's flu season was considered mild, health experts warn influenza is unpredictable and the disease could take a serious toll on many Americans.

Flu season begins as early as October and may last until May, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

"I urge everyone to join me and get a flu vaccine this year," Assistant Secretary for Health and Human Services Dr. Howard K. Koh said in a press release.

"When it comes to flu, we can't look to the past to predict the future," Koh said. "Stay healthy - get vaccinated!"

Koh called on everyone ages 6 months and older to follow the CDC's universal recommendation of getting vaccinated each year.

The CDC cautions that even healthy people can not only get very sick from the flu, and spread it to others who may fare even worse.

The agency reports between 1976 and 2007, up to 49,000 people have died from influenza.

Ninety percent of deaths during a typical seasonal flu season occur in people older than 65. The CDC also unveiled statistics today on how many people actually got last year's vaccine, about 42 percent of the U.S. population.

Adults with the best vaccine coverage were 65 and older, with approximately 65 percent getting vaccines last year, but that reflects a 10 percent drop in coverage rates for the age group since the 2008-2009 flu season.

"Influenza is five times more likely to cause severe illness in pregnant women than women who are not pregnant," Dr. Laura Riley, director of obstetrics and gynecology infectious diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.


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