One of our physician colleagues tells it like this: “Imagine being run over by a Mack truck. Now imagine the truck stopping and backing up and running you over again. Well, that is what I felt like when I got the flu two years ago. I ached, I coughed, my throat hurt, I missed work, I went to bed, I was miserable to be around and this lasted more than a week. I sure wish I hadn’t put off getting my flu shot that year!”

The flu is serious business. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that more than 200,000 Americans are hospitalized from flu-related complications on average each season, including 20,000 children younger than 5 years old.

Each year, thousands of people die from the flu. Children, the elderly, those with underlying health conditions and pregnant women are particularly at risk of getting very sick or even dying from the flu.

Given the seriousness of influenza, you’d think everyone would be lining up to get a flu shot to protect ourselves as well as our children, grandparents and patients if we work in health care.

Unfortunately, that is not the case. And that’s why the Maine Centers for Disease Control, the Maine Medical Association, the Maine Osteopathic Association and the Maine Hospital Association are asking everyone, especially health care workers, to get vaccinated against influenza.

This year, there’s plenty of vaccine to go around, and it’s available now through your local hospital, drug store and physician’s office, just to name a few possibilities.

To help you find a convenient place to get your flu shot, a statewide list of available flu clinics is posted online at www.211maine.org/flu-clinics.

Some of you are reading this and thinking, “I’m healthy; I don’t need a flu shot.”

But ask yourself: Is everyone you’re in contact with also healthy? How about your grandmother with the heart condition? Or your nephew with asthma? Or your pregnant neighbor? Your brother’s new baby? Your patients, if you work in health care?

Or even your sister who works a job where she has no sick leave. Can she afford to be laid up for two weeks with the flu? Can you? How would you feel if you were the one responsible for making someone else sick?

No vaccine is 100 percent effective in 100 percent of people.

Unfortunately, the flu vaccine is less effective in those folks most at risk for complications, such as infants, the elderly or people who have other health conditions. So they depend on those of us who are healthy and most likely to respond to the vaccine to get a shot and reduce the chances they will be exposed to the virus.

We believe health care workers have a particular responsibility to protect their patients, so we encourage you to ask your doctor and nurse whether they’ve gotten their flu shots yet.

Think you’ll just stay away from those folks if you start to feel ill? By then, it might too late.

Most healthy adults may be able to infect others beginning one day before symptoms develop and up to five to seven days after becoming sick.

Think getting the flu vaccine will give you the flu? Wrong again.

The flu shot does not contain any live virus and the nasal spray vaccine is made from weakened virus and does not cause the flu.

Still not convinced? For more facts about the flu and vaccines against it, www.flu.gov is a terrific resource.

Please join us in taking care of ourselves and our communities.

Wash your hands frequently, keep your hands away from your face, cover your cough, stay home if you are sick and take your family and friends with you to get a flu vaccine today.

Marie Vienneau is CEO of Millinocket Regional Hospital and chair of the Maine Hospital Association board of directors.

Stephen Sears, MD, MPH, is the state epidemiologist with the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention.