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Flu shot urged for seniors     Send a link to a friend

[OCT. 7, 2004]  SPRINGFIELD -- Charles D. Johnson, director of the Illinois Department on Aging, is reminding senior citizens that the flu season is coming and it's time to get that shot one more time.

"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 through February.

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 sneezing.
  • Wash your hands often to protect from germs. Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.

[Illinois Department on Aging news release]

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