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October 5, 2010 > Get Your Flu Shot Before the Flu Gets You!

Get Your Flu Shot Before the Flu Gets You!

Washington Urgent Care Now Offering the 2010-2011 Flu Vaccine

Epidemics of the flu happen every year, but last year's flu season was a particularly difficult one.

"The combination of the H1N1 flu outbreak and the regular seasonal flu resulted in a very high volume of patients with the flu last year," notes Dr. Sarkis Banipalsin, Medical Director of the Washington Urgent Care Clinic. "We are hoping to avoid a repetition of that this year, and we're urging people to get their flu shots as early as possible."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends a yearly flu vaccine as the first and most important step in protecting against flu viruses. Flu vaccines must be administered on a yearly basis because a person's immunity declines over the course of a year. Also, flu viruses often change from year to year, so vaccines created for flu viruses circulating last year may not provide protection against this year's viruses.

"This year's flu vaccine combines protection against an H3N2 virus and an influenza B virus," Dr. Banipalsin says, "It also protects against the H1N1 virus that caused so much illness last year because it is likely the H1N1 virus will continue to spread during the upcoming flu season. Also, there is a new higher-dose flu shot for people over age 65 because their immune systems often aren't as strong as younger people's."

The CDC is recommending flu vaccinations this year for everyone over the age of 6 months. Because children younger than 6 months are too young to be vaccinated, the people who care for them should be vaccinated instead. Vaccinations also are important for healthcare workers and other people who live with or care for high-risk people.

"Vaccination of people who are at high risk for developing serious complications from the flu is especially important," Dr. Banipalsin says. "Complications might include serious sinus or ear infections, pneumonia, lung inflammation, severe dehydration and worsening of chronic conditions such as asthma, diabetes or heart disease."

People considered to be at high risk include:
* Children under age 5 - and especially those under 2 years old
* People over age 65
* Pregnant women
* People with chronic health conditions such as diabetes, lung disease, asthma, heart disease, liver disorders and kidney disorders

"People who have a weakened immune system because of diseases such as cancer or HIV are also at high risk for complications," Dr. Banipalsin cautions. "The flu can easily put these patients in a very dangerous situation."

The flu is a contagious respiratory illness that is spread mainly by droplets made when people with the flu cough, sneeze or talk. The CDC cautions that healthy adults may be able to infect others beginning one day before symptoms develop and up to five to seven days after becoming sick. Some people, including children and people with weakened immune systems, might be able to infect others for an even longer time.

"If you do get sick with the flu, you should seek medical treatment as soon as possible," Dr. Banipalsin says. "There are prescription antiviral drugs available that can reduce the severity of the illness and shorten the duration, but it's important to use these drugs within the first couple of days after the onset of symptoms."

Symptoms of the flu may include:
* Fever
* Cough
* Sore throat
* Runny or stuffy nose
* Body aches
* Headache
* Chills
* Fatigue

Some people, particularly children, also may experience vomiting and diarrhea. People infected with the flu also may have respiratory symptoms without a fever.

Although seasonal flu activity usually peaks in January or later, flu season can begin as early as October. Because it takes about two weeks to develop immunity after vaccination, the CDC recommends getting vaccinated as early in the fall as possible.

"There are other steps you can take to avoid catching the flu, including washing your hands often with soap and water and trying to avoid close contact with sick people," Dr. Banipalsin says. "But getting a flu vaccine is really your 'best shot' for avoiding the flu."

2010 - 2011 Flu Vaccine Updates
* This year, the CDC advises all people 6 months and older to get the flu vaccine.
* One vaccine provides protection against three flu viruses: H3N2, H1N1, and influenza B.
* A new high-dose vaccine, Fluzone, is an alternative option to the regular vaccine for seniors over the age of 65.
* Morbid obesity, defined as a body mass index (BMI) over 40, has been newly recognized as risk factor for complications.
* American Indians and Alaskan Natives also were found to be at higher risk for complications of the flu.

Get a Flu Shot Today
Washington Urgent Care Clinic (www.whhs.com/urgentcare) is located in the Washington West Building at 2500 Mowry Avenue, Suite 212, in Fremont. For information about flu vaccine availability and clinic hours, call 510-791-CARE. Washington On Wheels Mobile Health Clinic is also offering flu shots at four different locations in the Tri-City area. For more information, call (510) 608-3203 or visit www.whhs.com/wow. For more information about flu vaccinations and flu prevention, visit www.cdc.gov.

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