One flu shot covers both seasonal and H1N1 strainsPhysicians are letting patients know that this year’s flu shot is a two-for-one deal covering seasonal flu strains and H1N1.
Physicians are letting patients know that this year’s flu shot is a two-for-one deal covering seasonal flu strains and H1N1.
“Last year, patients had to take two shots – a seasonal and an H1N1. But this year the flu shot is sort of a two-for-one deal,” said Amy Gilbert, M.D., M.P.H., a family physician and chair of the Minnesota Medical Association’s Committee on Public Health and Preventive Medicine.
Each year, vaccines for three different strains of influenza are included in the seasonal flu shot. This year, H1N1 influenza is still circulating, so it has been included as one of three strains in the 2010-2011 seasonal influenza vaccine.
The Minnesota Department of Health confirmed in a press release October 18 the state’s first flu deaths, two women in their 80s, and indicated that this may be a difficult flu season for the elderly.
Minnesota’s physicians want Minnesotans to know that nearly everyone is recommended for a flu shot, and this year it is easier than ever to get one.
“There is an ample supply and you will be protected from seasonal flu and H1N1 with just a single dose,” Gilbert said.
She says Minnesotans should act quickly because shots are available now, and the flu feels miserable and can make people dangerously sick and keep them out of work and school.
“When it comes to getting a flu shot, the sooner the better once it becomes available, since its immunity will last throughout the flu season,” Gilbert said.
Gilbert, an investigator for HealthPartners Research Foundation and the Vaccine Safety Datalink who has been researching the safety of flu vaccines for pregnant women, says it is particularly important for pregnant women to get the vaccine this year, since pregnant women have a higher risk of getting very sick with the flu.
“It is safe for women to get vaccinated at any time during their pregnancy,” she said.
H1N1 influenza had a surprising impact on pregnant women, children, and otherwise healthy young adults during the H1N1 pandemic, which the World Health Organization declared over in mid-August.
Children older than 6-months of age can get flu vaccine, too. The “FluMist” is a little drop in the nose, very easy to take for kids older than 2-years-old. For the first time the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is recommending all individuals 6 months and older receive a flu shot.
Furthermore, the vaccine is safe and cannot cause the flu. Sometimes people mistakenly attribute an illness to the flu shot because they happen to get a cold after receiving the shot or because they may feel tired for a day or two after the shot, while their body creates immunity to the flu.
In an average flu season, between 5 and 20 percent of the U.S. population is infected with influenza, resulting in more than 200,000 hospitalizations and 35,000 deaths.
Last year, the CDC documented nearly 275,000 H1N1-related hospitalizations and 12,500 H1N1-related deaths.
The CDC recommends a yearly flu vaccination as the first and most important step in protecting against the flu. And while the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices now recommends that everyone 6 months and older obtain a flu shot annually, it remains especially important for certain high risk groups and those who come in contact with them such as:
•Children younger than age 5, but especially those younger than age 2.
•Adults 50 years and older.
•People with chronic medical conditions.
•Those who live in nursing homes or other long-term care facilities.
•Individuals living with or caring for someone at high risk of complications such as health care workers, family members, and parents or guardians of children younger than 6 months of age.
There are also a handful of people who should not get the influenza vaccination without first consulting a physician. They include:
•People with severe allergies to chicken eggs.
•Those who have had a severe reaction to the influenza vaccination.
•Anyone who developed Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) within six weeks of being vaccinated.
•Children younger than 6 months of age.
•Those with a moderate-to-severe illness accompanied by a fever.
You can visit the Minnesota Department of Health flu site http://www.mdhflu.com for general information or http://www.health.state.mn.us/cgi-bin/idepc/fluschedule/fluclinic_search.cgi to find a flu shot clinic near you.
The Minnesota Medical Association is a professional association representing physicians, residents, and medical students, working together for a healthy Minnesota. With about 11,000 members, the MMA is a powerful advocate on health care issues at the State Capitol and in Washington, D.C.
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