Cape Gazette
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Healthy Geezer

‘Tis the season for influenza

By Fred Cicetti | Sep 29, 2011

It's time for a flu shot. You can get the flu vaccine from your doctor and at public health facilities, senior centers, pharmacies and supermarkets. The vaccine can be administered anytime during flu season. Adults over 50 are prime candidates for the vaccine because the flu can be fatal for older people.

There are two types of vaccines: the injection and the nasal spray. There are three different flu injections available: a regular flu shot approved for people ages 6 months and older; a high-dose flu shot approved for people 65 and older, and an intradermal flu shot approved for people 18 to 64 years of age.

Fluzone, Fluzone High-Dose, and Fluzone Intradermal are all injectable influenza vaccines made up of the three flu strains most likely to cause illness during a particular flu season.

Fluzone High-Dose is a new influenza vaccine designed for people 65 years and older. Fluzone High-Dose vaccines contain four times the amount of antigen contained in regular flu shots. Antigen is the part of the vaccine that prompts the body to make antibody to fight the flu. The additional antigen is intended to create a stronger immune response.

Human immune defenses become weaker with age, which places older people at greater risk of severe illness from influenza. Also, aging decreases the body’s ability to have a good immune response after getting influenza vaccine.

Fluzone Intradermal was introduced for the 2011-12 flu season. The flu vaccine is a shot with a smaller needle that is injected into the skin instead of the muscle.  It requires less antigen to be as effective as the regular flu shot.

The nasal-spray flu vaccine is called Live Attenuated Influenza Vaccine (also known as LAIV or FluMist). LAIV is approved for use in healthy people 2 through 49 years of age who are not pregnant.

The 2011-12 flu vaccine protects against seasonal flu and H1N1 (Swine Flu), just like last year's vaccine. However, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warn that people should get another dose of vaccine this season.

Flu season in the northern hemisphere can range from as early as October to as late as May. The peak month usually is February.

More than 200,000 flu victims are hospitalized annually in the United States. The death rate from flu ranges from 3,300 to almost 49,000 a year.

The flu strikes the elderly the hardest. About 90 percent of flu deaths in the 31 flu seasons between 1976 and 2007 occurred in people over age 65.

Flu is a contagious illness of the respiratory system caused by the influenza virus. Flu can lead to pneumonia, bronchitis, sinusitis, ear problems and dehydration. Droplets from coughing and sneezing spread the flu. An adult with flu can infect others beginning one day before symptoms develop and up to five days after becoming sick.  Children may spread flu for more than seven days. The best way to combat the bug is to get the flu vaccine. The vaccine does not prevent flu in all people. Contrary to rumor, you can’t catch the flu from the vaccine. The flu vaccine is not made from a live virus. The recovery time for the flu is about one to two weeks. However, in seniors, weakness may persist for a longer time.

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