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Lancaster County has only recorded two confirmed cases of influenza. But that doesn't mean residents should put off getting a flu shot. 

"One thing about the flu is that each flu season is different," said Tim Timmons, supervisor of communicable disease for the Lincoln-Lancaster County Department of Health. 

"You don't know when it is going to show up or how severe it is going to be," he said. 

Local health department officials recently sent out the annual reminder that a flu vaccination is "the most effective way to reduce the risk of getting influenza," which is a highly infectious disease of the lungs that can cause mild-to-severe illness and lead to death. 

One year, the state began seeing flu activity in mid-October, and "we had to scramble to get the vaccine out," Timmons said.

Generally the flu season begins near the end of the year, in late December or early January, he said.  

But getting a shot now makes sense. It takes about two weeks to develop full immunity after getting a shot, but the protection will last the entire flu season, Timmons said. 

Last year's immunization will not provide adequate protection for this flu season. 

The federal Centers for Disease Control recommends that everyone age 6 months and older receive the flu vaccine every year, but immunization is especially important for several groups.

* Those at high risk of developing serious complications such as pneumonia.

* Pregnant women.

* Those whose immune systems are compromised.

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* Those age 65 and older with medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes, and chronic lung disease.

* Residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.

* Residents who live with or care for those at high-risk for complications from the flu.

* Household residents and caregivers of children younger than age 5, especially those younger than 6 months. 

The vaccine is easily accessible throughout the community, and residents are encouraged to contact their health care provider or find a community flu immunization location, according to a news release.

The local health department will provide free flu shots to uninsured and underinsured adults and children, including children who have Medicaid coverage.

More information about local vaccine clinics is available at 402-442-8065, or visit health.lincoln.ne.gov (select vaccine clinic under community health services).

Reach the writer at 402-473-7250 or nhicks@journalstar.com

On Twitter @LJSNancyHicks.

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Nancy Hicks reports on Lincoln city government, but she’s been following the leaders of local and state government for more than 40 years.

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