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Get the Flu Vaccine, Not the Flu

Influenza, or the flu, can be a very serious disease for older adults. People older than age 65, who are especially vulnerable to complications from the flu, account for more than 60 percent of flu-related hospitalizations and 90 percent of seasonal flu deaths. Chronic illnesses such as asthma, diabetes, and heart disease increase the risk of complications from the flu.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services strongly recommends that everyone older than the age of six months get vaccinated. This year’s vaccine protects against three different viruses in one shot, including strains of H1N1 also known as bird flu, and strains of H3N2 sometimes referred to as swine flu. The flu vaccine has been shown to be safe and effective.

The three steps recommended to prevent the flu are:

  • Get the flu shot as soon as it becomes available.
  • Follow good health practices by washing hands frequently, coughing or sneezing into tissues, and avoiding people who are sick.
  • Seek medical care immediately if you develop severe symptoms, such as a prolonged fever or illness that lasts more than two weeks.

A higher-dose seasonal flu vaccine that promotes a stronger immune response is available for older adults. Talk to your doctor about which vaccine is best for you. Medicare makes the flu vaccine available at no additional cost or co-pay. Medicaid recipients need to contact their providers about payment information. For more information about flu prevention and treatment see: http://www.flu.gov

To learn more about the 2012-2013 flu vaccines visit: http://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/ucm315365.htm

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