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Editorial: Make flu vaccine decisions informed

Schools started last month across West Central Minnesota and the flu has re-emerged throughout many schools and communities.

Local, state and federal health authorities are working hard in preparation to battle the emerging flu threat on all fronts.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius Wednesday called for all Americans to get the vaccine against the growing swine flu threat. She said the vaccine is "safe and secure."

However, more than one-third of parents don't want their children vaccinated against the swine flu, also known as the H1N1 flu virus, according to an Associated Press-Gfk poll.

This is unfortunate for several reasons.

First, and foremost, this strain of H1N1 flu can be deadly, especially among young children.

One example is 6-year-old Nathan D. Schilling of Corcoran. Prior to getting sick with the flu, he was healthy and had no other health issues. He was hospitalized with the swine flu, was recovering and was sent home. His condition shortly afterward got worse and he died in an ambulance outside his home. He died due to an inflammation of the heart, a rare complication that can result from a flu infection.

His was the seventh flu-related death in Minnesota and the second of a child with no other health complications.

This current flu outbreak is serious, especially among young children.

Second, the belief that the new vaccine for swine flu could be risky is not valid. This swine flu vaccine is made the same way the regular flu vaccine is made.

Third, some believe that the swine flu is no worse than the regular flu. This is not true. This flu virus has already caused the hospitalization of at least 9,000 Americans and caused at least 600 deaths, including 60 children. And we have not even entered the prime flu season.

We encourage everyone to not take this flu concern lightly. Consult your primary health care physician. Ask questions. Consider the significant risks of this flu without adequate vaccine protection.

Most importantly, make an informed decision.

Finally, take the necessary health precautions for yourself and your family to protect against swine flu. The basic safety steps are to just cover your cough, wash your hands and stay home if you are sick.