The flu season is approaching; people urged to get shots

This article submitted by Linda Stelling on 10/20/98.

Influenza and pneumonia together are the fifth leading cause of death for older adults. As many as 20,000 Americans die each year from flu-related illnesses.

Influenza is a very contagious, viral infection of the nose, throat and lungs that is one of the most severe illnesses of the winter season. It is spread easily from person to person when an infected person coughs or sneezes. It may lead to hospitalization or even death, especially among the elderly.

The 1968-69 ďHong Kong fluĒ outbreak led to 34,000 deaths in the U.S.

Influenza symptoms include a high fever that starts suddenly, chills, a dry cough, headache, runny nose, sore throat, and muscle and joint pain.

Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or upset stomach are not symptoms of influenza. Unlike other common respiratory infections, which are often called ďthe flu,Ē true influenza can cause extreme tiredness that can lasts several days to weeks.

The flu vaccine has arrived at the Paynesville Area Health Care System and area residents are urged to get a flu shot. The Paynesville Area Senior Center will be hosting a flu shot clinic on Monday, Nov. 2, from 10 a.m. to noon and 1 to 3 p.m.

The vaccine is very safe and effective and generally has few side effects, according to Diane Paradis, Meeker County Public Health Director. A person cannot get influenza from the vaccine.

People at risk for getting a serious case of flu complications, or people in close contact with them, should get the vaccine.

These include:
ēEveryone 65 years of age or older.
ēResidents of long-term care facilities housing persons with chronic medical conditions.
ēAnyone who has a serious long-term health problem withóheart disease, lung disease, asthma, kidney disease, metabolic disease such as diabetes or are anemic or has other blood disorders.
ēAnyone whose immune system is weakened because of HIV/AIDS, or treatment with drugs such as long-term steroids, and cancer treatment.
ēAnyone six months to 18 years of age on long-term aspirin treatment.
ēWomen who will be more than three months pregnant during the flu season.
ēPhysicians, nurses, or anyone else coming in close contact with people at risk of serious influenza.

Others who should consider getting flu shots includeÖ
ēPeople who provide essential community services.
ēTravelers to the southern hemisphere between April and September, or those traveling to the tropics any time.
ēStudents and staff at schools and colleges, to prevent outbreaks; and
ēAnyone who wants to reduce their chance of catching influenza.

The best time to get a flu shot is between September and December. A new shot is needed each year.

Pneumonia shots
Pneumococcal infections account for an estimated 3,000 cases of meningitis, 50,000 cases of bacteremia, and 500,000 cases of pneumonia.

Although pneumococcal vaccine has been available since 1977, less than 47.9 percent of persons over 65 years of age in Minnesota reported having been vaccinated.

Many persons aged 50 to 64 years have chronic illness, and 12 percent have a pulmonary condition that place them at an increased risk for pneumonia.

About one out of every 20 people who get pneumonia dies from it, as do about two people out of 10 who get bacteremia, and three out of 10 who get meningitis.

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommends that the pneumonia vaccine be used on the following groups:
ēPersons aged 65 and older,
ēChildren who are at increased risk for illness because of diabetes, liver disease, pulmonary disease, or cardiovascular disease.
ēPersons aged two and older living in environments in which the risk for disease is high.
ēAnyone over two years of age who is taking any drug or treatment that lowers the bodyís resistance to infection such as cancer drugs, long-term steroids and radiation therapy.

There is no out-of-pocket costs for the flu or pneumonia shot for Medicare beneficiaries enrolled in Medicare Part B.

For more information about the influenza or pneumococcal vaccine, contact your family doctor or the Paynesville Area Health Care System.

Return to Archives