[ARLINGTON, Va.] – Getting vaccinated against influenza each year is one of the best ways to stay healthy during the flu season, yet fewer than half of Americans do. The Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) supports efforts by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to boost those numbers through National Influenza Vaccination Week Dec. 4-10.
“People often shrug off concerns about the flu, yet every year it strikes up to 20 percent of Americans, sending more than 200,000 to the hospital and killing thousands,” said Thomas G. Slama, MD, president of IDSA and clinical professor of medicine at the Indiana University School of Medicine. “The vaccine is widely available and there are several different ways to receive it, so options for protecting yourself and your children are plentiful.”
The CDC recommends everyone six months and older get vaccinated against influenza, but it’s especially important for young children, pregnant women, seniors and people with chronic health conditions such as asthma, diabetes or heart and lung disease. In fact, IDSA supports mandatory immunization of healthcare workers, because it is by far the best way to protect vulnerable patients from the potentially deadly but preventable flu.
“The flu shot is like the seat belt – it’s easy to use and protects against serious complications, even if the protection is not perfect,” said Andrew T. Pavia, MD, chair of IDSA’s Pandemic Influenza Task Force and chief of the division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases, University of Utah, Salt Lake City. “Last year, during a relatively mild flu season, we treated very severe complications of the flu in otherwise healthy teenagers. So, just as everyone uses seat belts, everybody, even healthy people, should get the flu vaccine.”
In addition to the regular shot, several variations of flu vaccination are available, including, for the first time, the new intradermal shot. The intradermal shot uses a tiny needle – 90 percent smaller than that used for the regular flu shot – that is injected into the skin, not the muscle. This year, the traditional shot also is available in high-dose form for people 65 years or older. Healthy children and adults ages two to 49 who are not pregnant also can opt for the nasal-spray form of vaccination.
The flu vaccine is available at pharmacies, doctor’s offices, health clinics and retail stores. Despite its wide availability, only 42 percent of Americans were vaccinated during the previous flu season, according to the CDC.
For more information about influenza, visit http://www.idsociety.org/Influenza/ or http://www.cdc.gov/flu/nivw/.
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