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Editorial: An ounce of prevention

As we head toward winter, life for hearty New Englanders means icy mornings, cold winds at our windows and the prospect of coming down with a really nasty case of the flu. One of those things you can do something about.

The Massachusetts Medical Society lent its support Monday to warnings from the U.S. Centers for Disease Prevention and Control that the 2012-13 flu season started early and could be particularly rough. The good news this year is that supplies of the flu vaccine are plentiful and the formula used lines up well against the types of viruses detected.

In 2009, the spread of the H1N1 swine flu prompted special health concerns because that strain is particularly dangerous. Indeed, it was blamed for 11,700 deaths in the U.S.; the flu spreading this year isn’t as much of a threat, but is not to be taken lightly.

For those who need a refresher course, here are key things to know about influenza, gleaned from an advisory from the medical society:

• It can be quite dangerous. This respiratory illness sends more than 200,000 people to the hospital each year in the U.S. alone.

• Flu spreads through droplets communicated from one person to another by sneezing and coughing, but also by close conversations and physical contact.

• You can pass along the illness a day before you develop symptoms yourself, after which you remain contagious for a week.

• The people most at risk are those with chronic conditions like asthma, congestive heart failure or diabetes.

• The society recommends that everyone six months and older be immunized each year, particularly pregnant women and children under 5 years of age.

Other vulnerable groups are adults over 65 and people with heart disease or weakened immune systems. Other groups for whom doctors strongly recommend flu shots are those with epilepsy and seizure disorders, the morbidly obese and residents of nursing homes.

For more information, consult the state Department of Public Health website (www.mass.gov/dph/flu) or that of the CDC (www.cdc.gov/flu).

Winter officially arrives next week. It takes about two weeks after receiving a flu shot for a body to develop the immune response that enables it to combat the virus. So time’s a-wasting.

Want to help our country keep spiraling health care costs in check? Get a flu shot.

And here’s a message from your co-workers: We love you, but if you get sick, stay home.

Valley Gives

More than 260 Valley nonprofits hope today is their lucky day. All are participating in Valley Gives, a one-day donate-a-thon led by the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts with help from Razoo, a funding website.

In this season of giving, many Valley residents put their sense of community in action with gifts to local groups they back.

That sense of choice remains a hallmark of Valley Gives, since www.valleygivesday.org allows donors to choose how to allocate their dollars.

These “give days” are popular around the country. As more and more transactions move online, the nonprofit sector is smart to get in the swim.

No one knows yet how Valley nonprofits will fare in today’s giving. If the program helps raise their visibility, and broadens understanding of the work they do, they can’t lose.

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