The flu season in New Mexico is dangerous this year — last week, the Department of Health reported that a 1-year-old boy from Roosevelt County died because of a flu-related illness.

Since flu season started in October, some 52 people have died in New Mexico because of pneumonia and influenza-related deaths, according to department officials.

They still are urging anyone older than 6 months of age to receive a flu vaccine. The vaccine covers several strains of flu, including some of the ones circulating — although there is a B strain that it might not be as effective against, according to the Washington Post. That strain is particularly hard on children.

Still, the local advice is straightforward. “It is not too late to get vaccinated,” said Department of Health Secretary Kathy Kunkel.

That’s important because the flu season has not peaked. That’s right. It’s going to get worse.

Already, Archbishop John Wester of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe has let Roman Catholics know that they should not hold hands during the Our Father or shake hands during the Sign of Peace. They also are instructed to receive communion in the hands; only one species of communion will be offered, the host. Priests and ministers of holy communion are being asked to wash hands before and after distributing communion. Sick people, of course, should stay home from Mass so as not to spread the virus.

His directives came after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention singled out New Mexico as a state experiencing widespread flu outbreaks. They make sense in other settings, too.

It’s good manners to keep germs away from other people, something we forget in a world where showing up at work sick is sometimes worn as a badge of honor. But spreading germs can cause harm and that’s something people should seek to avoid.

Obtaining a flu vaccine is another way to avoid spreading illness. It protects the person who is vaccinated and also those around them. Babies, the elderly and people with compromised immune systems all can be at risk of illness.

Besides being vaccinated, use common sense. Wash hands frequently with soap and hot water. Cover your mouth when sneezing. Wash or sanitize hands after blowing your nose, sneezing or coughing. Stay home if you have fever or respiratory symptoms. And get to the doctor fast. Antiviral medicine can reduce the symptoms of flu if a doctor prescribes it quickly.

Be kind to yourself, too. Sleeping, eating well and drinking fluids can help immune systems work properly. Flu is no joke, and by getting vaccinated and working to prevent the spread of the virus, we can all stay well this winter.

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