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Seniors urged to get flu shots early

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[OCT. 11, 2004]  SPRINGFIELD -- Due to the recent news concerning a possible shortage of flu vaccines, Illinois Department on Aging Director Charles D. Johnson is emphasizing the importance of flu shots for senior citizens

"Even though there seems to be a slight shortage of the flu vaccine, I encourage seniors to maintain their appointments and plans to get the shot," Johnson said.

Last week, a major flu vaccine supplier to the United States was shut down, cutting the number of available flu shots across the country in half, to 54 million.

Many health professionals across the country are urging those who don't necessarily need a vaccination to take a step back and give priority to those who really need it, including people 65 years of age and older.

Influenza, commonly called "the flu" is a contagious respiratory illness, resulting in sickness ranging 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.

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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. The CDC estimates that 10 percent 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.

"It's very important that this vulnerable population protect themselves," Johnson said. "Seniors already have a weakened immune system. Catching the flu can complicate existing health problems and result in death. So, again, I urge older people to get their flu shot."

[Illinois Department on Aging news release]

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