Health Notes: Flu
by Ellen S. Mullen M.D.
Influenza (or “the flu”) is a viral infection in the nose, throat and lungs. Every year 130,000 people are hospitalized because of the flu, and 20,000 people die because of the flu and flu complications. Symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, headaches, muscle aches and tiredness. Persons often say they have the “worse cold of my life.” The symptoms usually last 1-2 weeks but in some individuals it can lead to pneumonia and may be life-threatening.
The flu vaccine is a shot made up of dead viruses so the vaccine cannot cause you to get the flu. The vaccine merely revs up your immune system so when a live virus shows up your body
is able to defend against it. Persons who are at high risk for getting or transmitting the flu should definitely receive the vaccine.
These persons are:
• Children 6-23 months of age
• Adults 65 yrs. and older
• Healthcare workers
• Pregnant women
• Persons with lung diseases such as asthma
• Persons with a suppressed immune system
• Persons with kidney problems
• Persons with diabetes or heart disease
• Others with chronic health problems
• Anyone who works with persons under the age of 2 or older than 65
Even though you get vaccinated, you may still get the flu, after receiving the vaccine, but it will be a much milder case. The only persons who should not receive the flu shot are those who have had an allergic reaction to the vaccine in the past or those allergic to eggs or have had Guillain-Barre syndrome in the past. There is also a nasal spray vaccine which is a live but weakened vaccine. Use of this preparation should be discussed with your physician if the patient is less than 5 or greater than 50 years old or has long term health problems or a weakened immune system or is pregnant. If you have questions about the flu or the
vaccine call your doctor.