What's Up With Flu?
The messages from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the American College of Physicians (ACP) this year are the same...get your flu shot. They are talking about the garden variety flu that hits every year in the fall and causes 36,000 deaths. Flu shots can spare people from suffering serious illness and saves thousands of dollars in health care costs. Here is who should get seasonal flu vaccine:
- Adults 50 or older.
- Residents of long term care facilities housing persons with chronic medical conditions.
- Anyone who has a serious long-term health problem with heart disease; lung disease; asthma; kidney disease; diabetes; or anemia and other blood disorders.
- Anyone whose immune system is weakened because of HIV/AIDS or other diseases that affect the immune system; long-term treatment with drugs such as steroids; or cancer treatment with x-rays or drugs.
- Women who will be past the third month of pregnancy during flu season.
- Physicians, nurses, health care workers.
- Family members and anyone else coming in close contact with people at risk of flu.
- Children between ages 6 months and 18 years, unless they have a serious egg allergy.
What about H1N1 (we call it "Heiny") flu? The vaccine is still being developed and tested. When it does become available, the following five target groups should be immunized:
- Pregnant women
- Persons who live with or provide care for infants less than 6 months old
- Health care and emergency medical services personnel
- Persons aged 6 months to 24 years old
- Persons aged 25 to 64 years who have medical conditions that put them at higher risk for flu-related complications.
Note that the lists are different. Certain risk groups (pregnant women and babies) suffer more serious complications from H1N1. Also the recommendations leave out older people because this type of flu has passed this way before and people over 50 probably still have some natural immunity.
Seasonal flu shots are now available. H1N1 vaccines should appear in November.