Dr. Art Mollen: Get your flu shot as soon as possible

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PHOENIX -- Flu has already claimed the life of a Maricopa County child and that has health officials urging people to get their flu earlier than they might normally.

Two adult also were diagnosed with the flu.

Dr. Art Mollen agrees, explaining that this year's vaccine fights three separate strains of influenza, including H1N1, also known as swine flu.

Although the flu is a year-round illness, flu season generally runs from October through late May, according to the Centers for Disease Control. In Arizona, the season usually is worst early in the year.

"The earlier you get the flu shot, the better you will be protected," Mollen said. "It takes about two to four weeks to build up the antibodies to influenza. ... It will protect you as we get into the season, which will probably start in early November."

That's nearly two months earlier than usual. Mollen said it's been several year since we've seen the bad spate of flu cases so early.

When it come to flu, the best defense is a good offense, which means taking preventative measures, including getting a flu shot.

The CDC recommends everyone older than 6 months get a flu shot. They say it’s the best way to protect yourself from the flu.

"This is extremely important at this time of the year," Mollen said.

The only exception to the CDC’s recommendation is those who are allergic to eggs because eggs are used to make the flu vaccine. The very young and the elderly are most at risk for complications from the flu. Health-care workers and those who work with children tend to be ones who are most exposed to the virus.

The vaccine for this year has already started coming out.

Mollen said if you got a shot late in the season last year, it’s not too early to get your shot for this year.

“Generally, the flu vaccine will protect for about nine months to a year,” Mollen said. “It’s important to get that second immunization. … It builds up those antibodies in your system to protect you.”

To find a flu shot clinic, call 602-324-2814 in the Phoenix metro area or 1-877-764-2670 statewide.