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(Denison, IA) – The month of October is the unofficial start of the flu season in Iowa. And while most people are more concerned about the fall harvest and high school sports, Heather Rasmussen, the Executive Director of Care Integration at Crawford County Memorial Hospital (CCMH), encourages all residents to receive an influenza vaccination soon.

“Last year’s flu season was particularly severe,” Rasmussen said. “We know in a typical year about 35,000 people will die from flu related illnesses. Last year 80,000 people are estimated to have passed away from the flu. Just based on those numbers, I can’t stress enough the importance of receiving a flu shot.”

Rasmussen, who also serves as CCMH’s Infection Control Officer, went on, “As we know, both small children and older adults are more susceptible to contracting influenza and experiencing severe symptoms. By receiving a vaccination, not only are you protecting yourself from the illness but you lessen the chances of spreading the flu to others.”

Rasmussen also wants to dispel the number one myth around receiving an influenza vaccination.

“You cannot contract influenza from the flu shot,” Rasmussen emphasized. “The vaccine is manufactured using inactive viruses. Those inactive viruses help people build up antibodies to protect themselves from the flu.”

The efficacy of this year’s flu vaccine is not known. However, most vaccines guard against the most common and recent flu strains including Influenza A (H1N1), Influenza A (H3N2), and Influenza B. Rasmussen said the best way for people to avoid the flu is to receive an influenza vaccination, and take precautions like good hand washing techniques and cough etiquette.

For those patients with concerns or questions about the influenza vaccine, Rasmussen said they should speak with their family medicine provider.

“Don’t wait because you feel you don’t have all the information about the influenza vaccine. See your provider to ask questions and receive your vaccination as soon as possible,” Rasmussen counseled.

Rasmussen has a Masters of Nursing degree (MSN) and has worked as Infection Control Officer for Crawford County Memorial Hospital for the past 6 years. Rasmussen also has experience in home health, hospice and long-term care.