October 14, 1998
BE SURE TO GET YOUR FLU SHOT
SPRINGFIELD, IL Dr. John R. Lumpkin, state public health director, today urged Illinoisans to get their annual flu shot.
Although most people who get the flu recover in several weeks, others can develop serious complications, including pneumonia, Dr. Lumpkin said. Annual immunization against influenza can prevent these problems and many of the deaths that occur.
While influenza is not usually fatal, some people particularly the elderly and those who have a chronic illness can develop life-threatening complications. Last year, influenza and pneumonia was the fifth leading cause of death among Illinoisans 65 years of age and older.
Influenza, commonly called the flu, is caused by viruses that infect the respiratory tract. Typically, the flu includes a fever and respiratory symptoms such as cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, as well as headache, muscle aches and often extreme fatigue.
Dr. Lumpkin pointed out that viruses that cause influenza enter the body through the mucous membranes of the eyes, nose or mouth, and are primarily transmitted from person to person. Transmission can occur by breathing airborne droplets that carry the virus and are spread by an infectious person who has sneezed or coughed; or by touching items recently contaminated by an infectious person (such as doorknobs or other personal articles). To prevent the spread of influenza, take the following precautions:
Once a person has the flu, treatment usually consists of resting in bed, drinking plenty of fluids and taking medications to relieve fever and discomfort. A person should consult with his or her physician to determine the appropriate medication. Flu complications generally result from bacterial infections in the lower respiratory tract, particularly in persons with underlying lung problems or other chronic illnesses.
The flu season varies, but typically runs from November until April, with peak activity most often between January and March. Flu shots must be given annually, since scientists formulate a new vaccine each year from inactivated influenza viruses in circulation at the time. This years flu shot protects against the flu viruses expected to circulate in the United States this year: A Beijing, A Sydney and B Beijing. Strains of type A flu tend to affect more people because they change quickly and more often, so people are not able to develop immunity as well as they can to type B strains.
October is the optimal time to be vaccinated because it takes about two weeks for immunity to develop and provide protection. The vaccination, however, can be given at any time during the flu season.
The influenza vaccine does not always protect a person from getting the flu it is 70 percent to 90 percent effective in preventing influenza among healthy adults but in most instances it reduces the severity of the illness and the risk of serious complications.
The vaccine is specifically recommended for people 65 years of age and older and others at increased risk of influenza complications, including
In addition, the following groups should be vaccinated because, while not at high risk themselves, they may spread the flu to persons who are at high risk:
Dr. Lumpkin also noted that influenza vaccine may be administered to any person who wishes to reduce the likelihood of becoming ill this flu season.
The vaccine is safe and effective. The influenza vaccine that has been licensed in the United States is made from killed influenza viruses, which cannot cause the flu. Less than one- third of those who receive the vaccine have some soreness at the vaccination site and about 10 percent experience mild side effects, such as headache or low-grade fever, for about a day after vaccination. People who are allergic to eggs or who have a fever should check with their physician before receiving the vaccine.
of Public Health
535 West Jefferson Street
Springfield, Illinois 62761
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