The Italian Almanac

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Winter Flu

This winter's influenza season is expected to peak between January and February and around three to five million people will catch the flu, according to a report presented at the 24th national congress of the Italian Society of Medicine.

''It's still not possible to determine whether this year's flu will be light or not because it still has not been isolated,'' said health ministry official Aurelio Sessa. Our advice is to get a flu shot because every year there are 8,000 flu-related deaths,'' he added.

A flu shot costs 8.5 euros and Sessa said people in risk categories should be vaccinated by the end of December. Risk categories include the elderly and newborn, people with heart problems, diabetics and health sector employees. According to data presented at the conference, only 20% of doctors take flu shots themselves.

Pharmacists are playing an increasingly important role in treating flu, the congress was told, because many people try to treat themselves rather than go to a doctor and seek advice from their pharmacist.