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Published September 21, 2011, 10:21 PM

Seniors at Highest Risk During Flu Season

GRAND FORKS (WDAZ-TV) - A common illness kills more than 35,000 people every year. It's not cancer or heart disease. It's the flu.

GRAND FORKS (WDAZ-TV) - A common illness kills more than 35,000 people every year.

It's not cancer or heart disease. It's the flu.

It doesn't sound like a big deal because most of us have gotten through those queasy days when we have the flu.

But assisted living facilities and Grand Forks Public health are making it easier for senior citizens because the risks outweigh the steps it takes to prevent it.

Parkwood Place resident Joyce Hollevoet says the flu is nothing to sneeze at.

"You wouldn't remember this, but in 1918 my mother died and I was two years old. It's very necessary to have a flu shot," Hollevoet said.

Especially for senior citizens. According to the center for disease control, 36,00 people die each year from flu-related diseases. 90 percent of those people are 65 and older.

"In a place like this, when one gets it, everyone gets it," Hollevoet said.

That's why management here boosts awareness about boosting up your immune system. The staff brings a flu shot clinic in-house every fall, and even requires employees to get the flu shot.

"You think about the flu you think about nausea, vomiting, diarrhea. Really this is an upper respiratory disease we are preventing," Parkwood Place executive director Linda Butler said.

Grand Forks Public Health will have flu shot clinics set up around the county, many at senior citizen centers.

This year, it is giving a vaccination that has three strains of flu, including H1N1. It's covered by health insurance, but now on to the most important question: does it hurt?

"Hahaha, oh no. Don't sweat it. It doesn't hurt. It's a very, very good thing," Bea Jacobson said as she got her flu shot.

And if the mayor can do it...

"It was nothing. I didn't even feel it. Fall is coming and flu season is here. People need to be prepared," Grand Forks mayor Michael Brown said.

You can too.

Flu shot clinics:

- One will be the Northwood Community Center, Oct. 4 at 9 a.m.

- Larimore Senior Center, Oct. 3 at 1 p.m.

- Thompson Commmunity Center, Oct. 4 at 9 p.m.

- Gilby Community Center, Oct. 5 at 9 a.m.

- Manvel Senior Citizen Center, Oct. 5 at 1 p.m.

- Grand Forks County Office Building, Sept. 27 at 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Everyone should get the shot because a representative from public health says babies are the other high risk group.

Babies six months and up can get the shot, so that's why it's important everyone gets it so it doesn't spread to babies under six months.