One hundred years ago, when a flu pandemic spread, there was no vaccine. Many, many people died.

We now have a vaccine, but not enough people take advantage. Last year, more than 80,000 Americans died from flu-related illnesses, making it the deadliest in 40 years. Of those, 172 were children under the age of 18 and more than half were considered healthy. A New Canaan family was among those suffering that tragedy. Of the children who died, 80% had not received a flu shot, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Do not be deceived by mild temperatures. Flu season is knocking at our door. Now is the time to get your flu shot.

People cite a number of reasons for not getting a shot. It hurts, the shot will make me sick, the flu is not so bad. All wrong.

The shot does not hurt. The nurses from Visiting Nurse & Hospice who have been giving out flu shots in Wilton and will continue to do so are experts. They use a tiny needle and it is over before you know it.

The shot will not give you the flu because the virus used is inactive.

The flu is bad. Anyone who has had the flu — the real flu, not a bad cold — can tell you this. Flu can be very serious among young children, older adults, and people with chronic illnesses like asthma, heart disease, or diabetes.

The flu comes on quickly, bringing with it fever, cough, muscle or body aches, headaches, fatigue, and sometimes a stuffy nose and sore throat. While the actual virus may last only three to four miserable days, the after effects can linger quite a while, particularly the fatigue.

Close contact this time of year makes it easy for germs to spread from person to person, including the flu virus. Annual influenza vaccination is recommended for everyone age 6 months and older who does not have contraindications.

To prevent the flu, it’s important to cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue and throw away used tissues. Always cough or sneeze into the elbow, and wash hands often.

The flu shot doesn’t guarantee you won’t get the flu — it is 40% to 60% effective — but if you do fall victim it will greatly lessen its severity. It takes two weeks for the body to develop immunity.

For more opportunities to get a flu shot, see our story on page 1A. You may, of course, also go to your doctor’s office, CVS, or Stop & Shop.

So roll up your sleeve. It’s the right thing to do for yourself, your family and everyone around you.