The official start of fall is still just one week away and winter is several more weeks down the road, but a top state health official says it’s not too early to start thinking about protecting yourself with a flu shot. State epidemiologist Patricia Quinlisk says they’ve already received a handful of confirmed flu cases.

Dr. Quinlisk says it’s an urban myth that getting the flu vaccine will make you ill because the virus used in the vaccine is not longer active. “It’s literally is dead, it can’t make you sick. Now can you get a sore arm, yes, you put a needle in somebody’s arm, just that alone could potentially give you a sore arm,” Quinlisk says.

She says there are probably hundreds of Iowans who may be incubating the flu and the get a flu shot and the next day they have the sniffles. Quinlisk says their cold or the sniffles has nothing to do with the flu shot. Quinlisk sees a link to the effort to get everyone vaccinated and the fact that several of the last flu seasons have been relatively mild.

“And I believe that’s happening because as we get more and more people in our communities vaccinated, the virus basically can’t spread very easily from one person to another because when it tries to jump to another person, that person is vaccinated , and it basically runs up against a brick wall and it stops,” Quinlisk explains.

Quinlisk says nearly 200,000  people nationwide get sick enough from the flu each year to be hospitalized. Health officials recommend the shot for almost everyone except those with egg allergies.