"Flu shots are part of the routine as
we change seasons," Johnson said. "As we check on our furnaces and
get out the overcoats, we should also schedule a flu shot as part of
our transition into the late fall season. They're dependable and
covered by many insurance companies and Medicare Part B. So, I can't
think of a single reason not to get one."
Influenza, commonly called the flu, is
a contagious respiratory illness resulting in sickness that ranges
from mild to severe and life-threatening complications, such as
bacterial pneumonia, dehydration and worsening of chronic medical
conditions such as congestive heart failure, asthma or diabetes. It
is a particular threat to people 65 years of age and older and those
who have a weakened immune system.
According to the Centers for Disease
Control, the single best way to avoid the flu is to get a
vaccination every year in late October. An annual shot is necessary
because the virus is continually changing, meaning that the flu that
threatens this year is not the same virus that attacked during the
2003-2004 flu season. The season usually runs from early December
The CDC estimates that 10 to 20 percent
of U.S. residents get the flu each year, an average of 114,000
people are hospitalized for flu-related complications, and 36,000
die each year from those complications.
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Symptoms of the flu include fever,
headache, extreme tiredness, dry cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy
nose, and muscle aches.
Influenza viruses are spread from
person to person in respiratory droplets of coughs and sneezes,
called droplet spread. This can happen when droplets of an infected
person are propelled, generally up to 3 feet, through the air and
deposited on the mouth or nose of someone nearby. The viruses also
can be spread when people touch respiratory droplets on another
person or an object and then touch their own mouth or nose or
someone else's mouth or nose before washing their hands.
The following steps may help prevent
the spread of respiratory illnesses such as the flu:
- Avoid close contact with people
who are sick.
- When you are sick, keep your
distance from others to protect them from getting sick too.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a
tissue when coughing or
- Wash your hands often to protect
from germs. Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
Department on Aging news release]