The influenza season in the U.S. is from November to March or April annually. Influenza (flu) is a serious disease, caused by a virus that spreads from infected persons to others, killing each year in the United States about 20,000 people. Flu can cause fever, sore throat, cough, headache, chills and muscle aches.  People of any age can get flu. Most people are ill for only a few days, but some get much sicker and may need to be hospitalized. The purpose of receiving vaccine is prevention of the flu, reduce the severity of the flu and reduce the chance of transmitting the flu to close contacts. One may prevent flu/spread of flu by regularly washing the hands.

Influenza vaccine: The vaccine is made up of strains of viruses, which are selected by the U.S. Public Health Service. The vaccine is updated each year by replacing at least at one of the virus strains in the vaccine with a newer one. The 1998-99 vaccine will contain the following strains: A/Beijing, A/Sydney, and B/Beijing. One might still get flu because flu viruses change often, and the vaccine might not cover some new strains.  The side effects of the flu vaccine are generally mild in adults and occur at a low frequency. The reactions consist of tenderness at the injection site, fever, malaise or muscular aches. These symptoms may last up to 48 hours. Allergic reactions are very rare. If they do occur, it is within minutes to a few hours after the shot.

People at high risk should take the flu shots. For example: persons of age 65 or older; persons residing in nursing homes or chronic care facilities; persons with chronic cardiovascular or pulmonary disorders, including children with asthma; persons with diabetes, metabolic diseases, renal dysfunction, hemoglobinipdinophthies or immunosuppressions; children and adolescents receiving long-term aspirin therapy and who therefore may be at risk for developing Reye Syndrome after influenza; women in their third trimester of pregnancy; travelers to the Southern Hemisphere between April and September or those traveling to the tropics any time; health care workers, such as physicians, nurses or anyone coming into contact with people at risk of serious flu.

Precautions should be taken for pregnant women and children under three years of age. Persons who are allergic to eggs, egg products or any component of the vaccine or have a history of Guillain-Baire Syndrome should be administered with the vaccine under the supervision of their personal physician. Moderately or severely ill people should wait until recovered before getting the influenza vaccine. Call 1-800-232-2522, the Center for Disease Control, for more information.
Sreenivasarao Vepachedu, 10/08/98

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