Published: Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2013 --- 9:40 p.m.
As kids head back to school this week, there's no doubt they'll be exposed to more germs. And that means the entire family has a greater chance of getting sick.
While flu season doesn't typically start until October, the Centers for Disease Control encourages people to start getting the vaccine now, because immunity often takes a couple weeks to develop.
New this year, is a vaccine that offers wider protection.
"Historically the vaccines are what you call a trivalent," said Ellen Smith, a nurse epidemiologist at St. Mary's Hospital in Madison. "There are three strains of influenza virus in the vaccine. Two of those are Influenza A and one is Influenza B. This year there's what they call a quadravalent vaccine and it has four strains available in it. It's the same as the trivalent, but it has one additional strain of the Influenza B."
Staff at St. Mary's will start immunizing patients as soon as the doses arrive later this month. All employees are encouraged to get it the first week of October.
"It's very serious and we have tens of thousands of people who die on average every year in this country due to influenza," Smith said. "And it's a very preventable illness. The simplest thing you can do is to get a flu shot."
"We've actually given out a few today already," said Cody Moriearty, the pharmacy manager at the Hilldale Target.
He says the pharmacy just put out its signs advertising flu vaccine services Tuesday morning.
"We have all different sorts of flu shots," Moriearty said. "We have intranasal flu shots, which we can give to kids 6 years of age and older. We have your standard flu shots, and then we also have intradermal ones which are really tiny needles. So anybody who is kind of afraid of needles, we have that as another option."
One pharmacist, Dan McCoy, even heeded his own advice and got the shot Tuesday afternoon.
"I've never had the flu, and I hope to never have it," McCoy said. "So hopefully by getting the vaccine, it does decrease the risk of getting influenza."
"We want to show everybody that it's not scary, it's not hard to do," Moriearty said.
Anyone can stop by and ask for the vaccine. The whole process at Target usually takes about 15 minutes. It includes filling out some paperwork, a little waiting, but it protects people for the rest of the flu season.
"It's important for everybody because you're not just protecting yourself, you're protecting the people around you too," Moriearty said.
Very young children and the elderly are most at risk because symptoms are worse for those populations. Those symptoms include fever, cough and body aches.
Most health insurances do cover the flu vaccine at no cost.