A few good reasons to get flu shot

The aches, the temperature, the headache, the weakness—all the hallmarks that you’ve gotten a seasonal influenza.

Experts say the main difference in experience is that with a cold you get stuffed up, sniffle and cough but can still get through most your activities.

With the flu, “it’s like you’ve been hit by a truck.”

If you’re like most seniors, you have too much to do to be down with the flu.

And, if you have a compromised immune system—through organ transplant, chemotherapy or other medical causes—or if you or loved oens fall into the category of “frail elderly,” you really can’t risk it.

Annually, flu complications land 200,000 people in the hospital, and people 85 and older have the highest rate of hospitalization. That means if you’re caring for a parent or older person, you can do a lot to protect them by making sure you and the people around them are vaccinated.

The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses that infect the nose, throat, and lungs. It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death. The best way to prevent the flu is by getting a flu vaccine each year.

According to the CDC, symptoms include:
• fever or having chills (although not all people will experience fever)
• cough
• sore throat
• runny nose
• muscle or body aches
• headaches
• extreme fatigue
• vomiting and diarrhea, mostly in children

The Ebola problem

The number of Ebola infection in the U.S. can currently be counted on one hand and are still garnering headlines.

However, what if the illness becomes more widespread? That’s when health providers and infectious-disease trackers need to know what they’re treating.

The Minnesota Health Department says there’s no good way to tell regular “flu” and Ebola symptoms apart when people first become ill.

Medical tests will certainly prove the difference, but if clinics are bombarded with panicked patients with influenza. they could be overwhelmed and other patients and healthcare workers could be exposed to the virus.

And in the U.S., flu far outpaces other viral forms in causing death. Over a period of 30 years, between 1976 and 2006, estimates of flu-associated deaths range from a low of about 3,000 to a high of about 49,000 people.

How do you get it?

Most experts believe that flu viruses spread mainly by droplets made when people with flu cough, sneeze or talk. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby. Less often, a person might also get flu by touching a surface or object that has flu virus on it and then touching their own mouth, eyes or possibly their nose.

You may be able to pass on the flu to someone else before you know you are sick, as well as while you are sick. Most healthy adults may be able to infect others beginning 1 day before symptoms develop and up to 5 to 7 days after becoming sick. Some people, especially young children and people with weakened immune systems, might be able to infect others for an even longer time.

Complications of flu can include bacterial pneumonia, ear infections, sinus infections, dehydration, and worsening of chronic medical conditions, such as congestive heart failure, asthma, or diabetes.

Prevent seasonal flu: Get vaccinated

The single best way to prevent the flu is to get a flu vaccine each season.

There are several flu vaccine options for the 2014-2015 flu season.

Traditional flu vaccines made to protect against three different flu viruses (called “trivalent” vaccines) are available. In addition, flu vaccines made to protect against four different flu viruses (called “quadrivalent” vaccines) also are available. Trivalent flu vaccine protects against two influenza A viruses (an H1N1 and an H3N2) and an influenza B virus. The following trivalent flu vaccines are available:

Standard-dose trivalent shots (IIV3) that are manufactured using virus grown in eggs. Different flu shots are approved for people of different ages, but there are flu shots that are approved for use in people as young as 6 months of age and up. (Most flu shots are given with a needle. One flu vaccine also can be given with a jet injector.)

An intradermal trivalent shot, which is injected into the skin instead of the muscle and uses a much smaller needle than the regular flu shot. It is approved for people 18 through 64 years of age.

A high-dose trivalent shot, approved for people 65 and older.

A trivalent shot containing virus grown in cell culture, which is approved for people 18 and older.

A recombinant trivalent shot that is egg-free, approved for people 18 through 49 years of age.

The quadrivalent flu vaccine protects against two influenza A viruses and two influenza B viruses. The following quadrivalent flu vaccines are available:

A quadrivalent flu shot

A quadrivalent nasal spray vaccine, approved for people 2 through 49 years of age (recommended preferentially for healthy* children 2 years through 8 years old when immediately available and there are no contraindications or precautions).

(*”Healthy” in this instance refers to children 2 years through 8 years old who do not have an underlying medical condition that predisposes them to influenza complications.)

- Information from CDC, Minnesota Department of Health


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