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What you need to know about the flu

December 01, 2000

What you need to know about the flu



By KATE COLEMAN / Staff Writer


You've probably heard that manufacturers have experienced delays in producing the flu vaccine. The 2000 formula will be available, just not as early as usual.

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Washington County Health Department ordered an extra 1,000 shots of the vaccine this season, said Health Officer William G. Christoffel. The agency will have enough vaccine, but it's coming in several shipments. There will be enough time to get a shot and have it take effect before the height of flu season, which usually occurs in February.

Influenza, "flu," is caused by the influenza virus, which infects the respiratory tract. More than a nuisance, flu leads to approximately 110,000 hospitalizations and 20,000 deaths each year, according to information on the Web site of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, www.cdc.gov.

It takes one or two weeks for a person to develop the protective antibody after receiving the flu shot. Even though the vaccine is available later, people still should get the shot, said Dr. Cynthia Kuttner-Sands, a physician specializing in geriatric medicine. Vaccination is especially important for people who are at high risk - the elderly, and those with chronic illnesses or compromised immune systems. Having a relative or friend at high risk also is a compelling reason to get a flu shot, said Kuttner-Sands, medical director of the Extended Care Facility at Washington County Hospital.

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There is some controversy about who fits into the high-risk group, Kuttner-Sands said. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and American Academy of Family Physicians recommend that people ages 50 and older receive the vaccine.

Who shouldn't get a flu shot? If you have severe allergies to eggs or have had a severe reaction to a previous flu shot, getting one is not recommended.

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