Healthy Geezer- Its not to late to get that important flu shot

It?s time for a flu shot.Flu season in the northern hemisphere can range from as early as November to as late as May. The peak month usually is February.

The vaccine can be administered anytime during flu season. However, the best time to get inoculated is October-November. The protection provided by the vaccine lasts about a year. Adults over 50 are prime candidates for the vaccine because the flu can be fatal for people in this age group.

The Centers for Disease Con?trol and Prevention estimates that up to 20 percent of the population gets the flu each year. More than 200,000 flu victims are hospitalized annually in the United States; about 36,000 people die from complications of flu.

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. You have to get inoculated annually because new vaccines are prepared every year to combat new versions of the virus. When you battle the flu, you develop antibodies to the invading virus, but those antibodies don?t work on new strains. The vaccine does not prevent flu in all people; it works better in younger recipients than older ones.

Contrary to rumor, you can?t catch the flu from the vaccine. The flu vaccine is not made from a live virus.

You can get the flu vaccine from your doctor, at public health centers, senior centers, pharmacies and supermarkets. About 145 million doses of influenza vaccine?a record output?will be produced for use in the United States during the 2008-09 influenza season.

The recovery time for the flu is about one to two weeks. However, in seniors, weakness may persist for a longer time.

The common scenario for flu is a sudden onset of symptoms, which include chills, fatigue, fever, cough, headache, sore throat, nasal congestion, muscle aches and appetite loss.

While nausea, vomiting and diarrhea can be related to the flu, these are rarely the primary flu symptoms. The flu is not a stomach or intestinal disease. The term ?stomach flu? is inaccurate.

When symptoms strike, get to a doctor as soon as possible; the faster the better. There are prescription antiviral drugs to treat flu. Over-the-counter medicines can help relieve symptoms of the flu. You should also drink liquids to prevent dehydration, and sleep to bolster your immune system.

The CDC reports vaccination rates are better for those over 65. Overall, 72 percent of seniors get their flu shots. The CDC?s 2010 goal is the vaccination of 90 percent of seniors.

For more than four decades, the flu vaccine has been strongly recommended for older people, but now some scientists say the vaccine probably doesn?t work well for those over 70. About 75 percent of flu deaths happen to people in this age group.

A recent study found that people who were conscientious about maintaining their health were the most likely to get a flu shot. Those who are frail and more likely to die are less likely to get the vaccine, the study said.

The authors of the study contend that previous analyses had measured the difference between seniors who get vaccines and those who do not. Earlier studies did not measure the protection against the flu virus, the authors asserted.

The new study is not accepted by everyone in the health field and the findings have not reversed the recommendation that older people get a flu shot.

If you have a question, please write to All rights reserved ? 2008 by Fred Cicetti.

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