Get flu shots by November 15; Stop influenza bug in its tracks

Get flu shots by November 15; Stop influenza bug in its tracks The American Lung Association of South Dakota urges you to take steps now to stop the flu bug in its tracks before the flu season starts.

Getting a flu shot before Nov. 15 is the best preventive measure to avoid the flu.

The flu is highly contagious and affects all age groups, causing loss of work, pneumonia, hospitalization and even death.

Each year an average of 20,000 Americans die because of the flu. In severe years, over 40,000 people die from influenza-related causes.

Over 90 percent of those deaths occur in people ages 65 and older. Many of these deaths are preventable by receiving the flu shot.

The vaccine is safe and is the best way to protect against flu and its complications. It takes about two weeks after receiving the vaccine to develop immunity. Since influenza viruses change from year to year, an annual flu shot is necessary each fall.

Influenza vaccine can prevent up to 50 to 60 percent of hospitalizations and 80 percent of deaths from

influenza-related complications among the elderly. Influenza vaccine is paid for by Medicare Part B.

The flu shot should be a priority for:

* people who want to avoid the flu bug;

* people over age 65;

* people with chronic lung disease including asthma and emphysema, heart disease, diabetes or other metabolic disorders;

* physicians, nurses, and other health care workers;

* school personnel;

* other essential workers;

* people who live or work with those at high risk for influenza.

The flu shot can't give you the flu. There may be some soreness, redness or swelling at the injection site. Other possible mild side effects include a headache and low-grade fever for a day after vaccination.

As with any medicine, there are very small risks that serious problems, even death, could occur after getting a vaccine. However, the risks from the disease are much greater than the risks for the vaccine.

There are some people who cannot receive the flu shot. Major reasons include: allergic reaction to chicken eggs; a previous serious reaction to a flu vaccine (very rare); and those with a paralytic disorder (Guillan-Barre Syndrome), which was felt to be caused by flu vaccine. Persons who are allergic to eggs should discuss this with their physician, as several options are available.

One of the most severe complications of influenza is bacterial pneumonia. The most common type of bacterial pneumonia is pneumococcal pneumonia and there is a vaccine to protect against this illness.

A single dose of the vaccine protects against 23 different types of bacteria that are responsible for causing over 90 percent of all pneumococcal disease cases. The vaccine is also covered by Medicare Part B.

For more information on the flu call the American Lung Association of South Dakota at 1-800-873-5864.

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