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Get ready for flu season

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July 14th, 2014

It’s that time of year again—time to roll up our sleeves and beat the flu. As you know, influenza is a serious viral infection that can cause fever, cough, and pneumonia. The vaccine is a wonderful opportunity to protect yourself with minimal risk. 

It is not an exaggeration to state that the flu shot is the single most important medical intervention we do all year. It has been demonstrated in several studies to reduce risk for pneumonia, hospitalization, and death by up to 50%. A remarkable feature of the vaccine is that it protects us with little side effect or risk. 

The vaccine is made up of completely inactivated virus components, so you cannot get the flu from the flu vaccine. It is possible to get some soreness in your arm where the vaccine was placed or to get a mild flu-like illness for a day or two. More severe reactions are very rare.

Flu season typically starts in October, peaks in January or February, and tapers off by April. The vaccine takes about two to three weeks to become effective as the body has to develop immunity. Because of this, it is a good idea to be vaccinated in September or October but you can still get vaccinated throughout the winter.

New developments

One of the concerns about the effectiveness of the flu shot is that the immune system weakens as we age, and seniors sometimes have an inadequate response to the vaccine and may not achieve adequate protection. Because of this, a higher-dose vaccine has been developed by Sanofi Pasteur specifically designed for seniors; studies demonstrate that this vaccine results in a stronger immune response than the standard dose. Initial clinical trials presented at the October 2013 meeting of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices also demonstrated that the high-dose shot was 24% better at preventing flu among seniors than the standard flu shot. This improved response did come with more minor side effects such as local reactions at the injection site.

Virtually everyone over the age of 65 should receive the vaccine. Only people with a history of Guillain-Barre syndrome or allergy to a prior vaccine or vaccine component (some vaccines contain a small amount of egg or a preservative) should not receive the vaccine. Despite this, only about 65% of seniors get flu shots every year. At E... Living communities, we take prevention very seriously and 94% of our residents received the flu vaccine last year. 

Even if you aren’t concerned about getting the flu, please consider others around you. The flu is highly contagious and you can spread the disease, particularly to people at high risk, such as children, seniors, or those in poor health. Frequent and thorough hand washing is essential all year long, but getting vaccinated, with either the regular dose or high dose vaccine, is the number one way to protect yourself and your loved ones.

Let’s roll up our sleeves and beat the flu together!

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