01-16-2020 Columns


It’s not too late to get a flu shot!

If you haven’t had your flu vaccine yet, it’s not too late! Flu – more formally known as influenza – is a serious viral disease that can lead to hospitalization and even death. Although every flu season is different, flu has resulted in anywhere from 9.2 million to 35.6 million illnesses; 140,000 to 710,000 hospitalizations; and 12,000 to 56,000 deaths every year since 2010, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Flu viruses are spread through tiny droplets by people infected with flu who cough, sneeze, or talk. Flu also is spread by touching a surface or object that has flu viruses on it. Although influenza viruses circulate year-round, flu activity peaks between December and February most years, but activity can last as late as May in the U.S. An annual seasonal flu vaccine is the best way to reduce your risk of getting sick and spreading it to others. The vaccine typically is redesigned each year to contain flu virus strains expected to be prevalent during the upcoming flu season. The strains have been inactivated so that they don’t cause you to get sick with flu, but will trigger your immune system to produce antibodies that can protect against influenza disease. When more people get vaccinated, less flu can spread through a community. It can take about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop in the body. Typically, children and older people are most at risk for influenza. Annual vaccination is the best way to prevent influenza among people ages six months and older. You also can reduce the spread of the flu and reduce its effects by taking such practical measures as washing your hands, covering coughs and sneezes, and staying home when you’re sick. And, although antiviral drugs are not a substitute for vaccines, they can help to treat influenza. For more information about influenza or the flu vaccine, talk to your doctor or call the Berrien County Health Department at 269-926-7121 or visit www.bchdmi.org.

Small businesses and Social Security

According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, the 28.8 million small businesses in the United States represent 99.7% of all U.S. businesses, and employ 56.8 million people. Running a small business can be a 24-7 endeavor. Managing employees, inventory, scheduling, services, and marketing can be challenging. If you are a small business owner or you work for one, we can help make your life easier with our suite of services. Our services allow you to file W-2/W-2Cs online and verify your employees’ names and Social Security numbers against our records. If you run a business, make us your first stop at www.socialsecurity.gov/ employer. It will save you valuable time when you need information on W-2s, electronic filing, and verifying Social Security numbers. Small business owners can also take advantage of our Business Services Online at www.socialsecurity.gov/bso/bsowelcome.htm. You must register to use this free service, which also offers fast, free, and secure online W-2 filing options to CPAs, enrolled agents, and individuals who process W-2s and W-2Cs. This publication provides more information about electronic wage reporting www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/EN-05-10034.pdf. Vonda Van Til is the Public Affairs Specialist for West Michigan. You can write her c/o Social Security Administration, 3045 Knapp NE, Grand Rapids MI 49525 or via email at vonda.vantil@ssa.gov.