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Flu and Pneumonia

News on the 2004-2005 Flu Vaccine Shortage

In a press release October 19, 2004, HHS Secretary Tommy G. Thompson stated "While we don't have as much flu vaccine as we planned for, the combination of existing vaccine and antiviral medicines gives us the ability to stave off any harsh effects of the flu.

The combined supply of influenza vaccine and antiviral medications precludes the need for seniors and others to stand in long lines waiting for vaccine. In addition, about 24 million doses of this influenza vaccine supply has yet to be distributed and will be steered toward the people and places who need it the most. He advised seniors seeking vaccine to be patient and persistent, keeping in contact with their doctors and public health departments.

We are still in the early stages of the flu season, and millions more doses of the vaccine will be shipped in coming weeks, so there is still time to get vaccinated."

Information you need to know about the 2004-2005 flu vaccine shortage:

What is the Flu? How Serious is it?

Influenza, also called the "flu," is a highly contagious respiratory infection.

  • Symptoms.
    Flu can cause fever, chills, headache, dry cough, runny or stuffy nose, sore throat, and muscle aches. Unlike other common respiratory infections such as the common cold, influenza can cause extreme fatigue lasting several days to more than a week. Although nausea, vomiting and diarrhea can sometimes accompany influenza infection, especially in children, gastrointestinal symptoms are rarely prominent. The illness that people often call "stomach flu" is not influenza.
  • /

  • Spread from person to person.
    Influenza is spread easily from person to person primarily when an infected person coughs or sneezes. After a person has been infected with the virus, symptoms usually appear within 2 to 4 days. The infection is considered often contagious for another 3 to 4 days after symptoms appear. Because of this, people used to think the flu was caused by the "influence of the stars and planets." In the 1500s, the Italians called the disease "influenza," their word for influence. Each year, an estimated 10 to 20 percent of the population contracts influenza.

Fight Pneumonia

Who should receive one-time vaccination for pneumococcal pneumonia?

The groups at higher risk for invasive pneumococcal disease include those over 64 years old and others with increased susceptibility to this infection, such as patients with HIV, splenectomy, sickle cell disease, diabetes mellitus, chronic disorders of the lungs or heart, and cirrhosis. You can receive this vaccination on the same day that you get the flu shot, and for those covered under Medicare Part B, it is also free when ordered by a physician. However, the pneumococcal vaccine can be given at any time of year and is a once-in-a-lifetime vaccination for most people.

If you don't have a spleen, or if you have chronic renal failure, HIV, cancer, or other diseases that compromise your immune system, ask your health care provider if a second pneumococcal vaccination is necessary.

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