Entries in Flu Shot (14)


There's Still Time to Get a Flu Shot

Jeffrey Hamilton/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- It’s official: flu season is here.  But experts say it’s not too late to get a flu shot -- your best protection against winter’s wiliest virus.

“This year’s vaccine appears to be right on target with the circulating virus,” said Dr. William Schaffner, chair of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tenn.  “Treat it as a holiday gift to yourself and everyone around you.  Don’t be a Grinch by spreading the flu.”

Flu season arrived early this year, and according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it could be a doozy.

“We’re seeing the beginning of the uptick start at least a month before we’d generally see it,” said CDC Director Dr. Thomas Frieden.  “It looks like it’s shaping up to be a bad flu season.”

Holiday parties and crowded cross-country travel give the flu an easy ticket to spread, according to Schaffner.

“There are a lot of interactions within your breathing zone,” he said, referring to the three-foot radius around your mouth.  “Those are all ideal circumstances for viral transmission.”

While “avoiding coughers and sneezers” can help reduce your risk, flu symptoms can take days to appear.  That means seemingly healthy friends and coworkers could be unwittingly exposing you to the flu.

“It‘s not too late to get a flu shot,” said Schaffner, who warned that flu season will likely extend through February or March.  “Please don’t doddle.  Don’t leave it to the last minute like a late Christmas eve shopping trip.”

If you do come down with flu symptoms, stay home and rest, Schaffner said.

“Don’t go to holiday parties, don’t go to work,” he said.  “You’ll only expose all your friends, relatives and coworkers.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


WHO Says Pregnant Women Need Flu Vaccine Most

Jeffrey Hamilton/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- This flu season, the World Health Organization says pregnant women should be given top priority for flu vaccinations, putting them above the elderly, children and people with chronic health conditions.

Pregnant women are considered especially vulnerable to the flu because their immune systems are slightly depressed to accommodate the growing fetus, doctors say.  The mother's body does this so her immune won't attack the unborn baby, which includes foreign DNA.

"They're not more likely to get it, but if they get it, they're more likely to have severe morbidity or actually die from it," said Dr. Jon Abramson, a pediatrician at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in North Carolina.

When the immune system is down, the mother's body can't fight the flu off as easily, Abramson said.  It can then escalate and result in pneumonia and other health problems.  Even if the flu doesn't result in hospitalization, the baby is more likely to have a low birth weight or be born premature, especially if the mother gets the flu in the third trimester.

Although doctors have recommended the flu vaccine to pregnant women for decades, the 2009 pandemic got people's attention.  According to a WHO report, pregnant women in New York City were 7.2 times more likely to be hospitalized for influenza than non-pregnant women during the 2009 swine flu pandemic.

Lori Wolfe, who directs the Texas Teratogen Information Service Pregnancy Risk Line, said more women call her because they are afraid of getting the flu shot, not the flu.  Since 2009, Wolfe and her colleagues have made it a practice to always recommend the flu shot to callers.

"When women are pregnant, there's some concern about anything entering their system.  The thought of having to get a vaccination alone is scary to a lot of them," Wolfe said, adding that they usually understand why it's important to get one after the teratologist explains flu risks to them.

Abramson said there's no way to get the flu from a flu shot (not the nasal spray) because the virus inside the shot is dead.  Even once the baby is born, the mother's flu antibodies are passed to the baby through the placenta and protect him or her for up to six months.  By then, the baby can get a flu shot, too.

Wolfe said a woman can get a flu vaccine at any time during her pregnancy.  Other than the risk of miscarriage or premature birth if the mother is severely sick, a fever above 102 degrees presents the biggest developmental hazards to the fetus.

A Danish study published earlier this month also found a correlation between the flu during pregnancy and autism, reinforcing experts recommendations that all pregnant women should be vaccinated.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


100 Children Annually Die of Flu -- More Quickly Than You'd Expect

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- In just eight months at his new school in Rifle, Colo., Austin Booth made a name for himself as a star athlete, honor student and a popular classmate with a promising future.

But within six days of contracting the flu last January, Austin was dead. He was 17. His parents had never even considered giving a flu shot to their otherwise healthy teen.

"It was flu season and we knew other kids who were sick and we didn't think that much about it," said his mother, Regina Booth, 42. "It was pretty tough -- and it seems like just yesterday." She now annually immunizes her four other children, aged 3 to 16.

In the past four years, the CDC has changed its recommendations and now urges all Americans six months and older get a flu shot. Children under the age of 9, who are getting immunized for the first time, should get two doses, one month apart.

Booth said she still cannot believe how sudden her son's death was. On Tuesday night, he had started and played a full basketball game. By Wednesday night, he was coughing up blood and was rushed to the hospital with pneumonia.

His condition got worse.  He struggled to breathe, and was intubated before being airlifted to another facility.  Soon after, Austin had to be taken off of a ventilator and manually “bagged.”  Tests showed the teen positive for the virulent infection MRSA.

Hundreds of Austin's new friends showed up for his funeral. The basketball team retired his #2 jersey.

"We had never gotten the flu shot -- not any of us," she said. "We thought, we don't need it, we are healthy. If we get the shot it will make us sick."

Dr. William Schaffner, professor and chairman of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, said that people are fooled into thinking that influenza, a serious respiratory infection, is just like a cold.

"People use the word 'flu' very casually to refer to a whole variety of winter illnesses, including a stuffy nose, and that tends to trivialize it," said Schaffner. "It is a serious viral infection -- it wreaks havoc on all the body's systems."

"Although it can be mild and often is, it is often very, very serious and can strike an otherwise normal child and put them in intensive care, usually within 48 hours." He added that while serious complications occur most often among older people, about a hundred American children die every year from the disease.

With 120 million doses of influenza vaccine given each year in the U.S. alone, it is "wonderfully safe," with side effects including a sore arm or, rarely, a day of fever. But despite being covered by insurance carriers, only half of all children are immunized.  

Schaffner reiterated the vaccine cannot give a person the flu. "That's an urban myth," he said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


New Flu Shot Cracks Egg Problem

Jeffrey Hamilton/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved a new seasonal flu vaccine made using animal cells instead of chicken eggs, a move experts say will cut vaccine production times in the event of an outbreak.

The vaccine, called Flucelvax and made by Novartis, is approved for flu prevention in people 18 and older.  The drug manufacturing process is similar to the half-century-old method of growing the vaccine in an egg.  But it’s faster -- meaning Flucelvax production could be quickly ramped up in response to a pandemic.

“This cell-based technology removes hens and roosters and eggs from the vaccine manufacturing process, which means the vaccine could be made more rapidly, and that’s a terrific advantage,” said Dr. William Schaffner, president of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases and chairman of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tenn.  “It also removes any lingering concern about egg allergies.”

Unlike the egg-based method, in which samples of seasonal flu virus are injected into chicken eggs and incubated, cell-based technology combines small amounts of virus with nutrients and cells in large fermenting tanks.

“All the time it takes for chickens and roosters to do their business is cut short by having this stockpile of frozen cells ready to go,” said Schaffner, describing how complicated it is to produce eggs while also maintaining sterility.  “When you’re dealing with chickens and eggs, of course there are rigorous processes to disinfect the eggs to make sure no there’s no bacteria.  But you avoid all that with cell-based vaccine production because the cells are kept sterile from very beginning.”

The vaccine is isolated from the cells and purified, just as it would be in the egg-based method, according to Schaffner.

“Once the vaccine is produced it’s just like the old vaccine,” he said.

In a clinical trial of about 7,700 people, Flucelvax was 83.8 percent effective in preventing flu compared to a placebo, according to the FDA.

Cell culture technology has been used for several decades to produce other vaccines in the U.S., according to the FDA.  But Flucelvax is the first flu vaccine to be produced using the newer method.

“It’s a proven technology, a more modern technology, and now we’re applying it to the flu vaccine,” said Schaffner.  “It means you can get more vaccine in the pipeline and into people more quickly.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Apps and Appliances to Boost Immunity, Soothe Flu Symptoms

Digital Vision/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The best defense against the flu is the vaccine, which can reduce the risk of contracting the illness by 59 percent.  But there's also an array of gadgets that can boost your protection and soothe your symptoms if you do get infected.

Check out these flu-fighting apps and appliances:

-- Neti Pot: The Neti pot is an ancient nasal irrigation system used to flush the sinuses with warm salt water.  It can help ease the congestion that often stems from the flu.  But don't overdo it.  People who irrigated daily were more prone to sinus infections, according to a 2009 study presented at the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology annual meeting.

-- Humidifier: Chapped lips and dry, sore skin -- especially under the nose -- are par for the course during flu season.  A humidifier can help keep the air moist, easing the dryness.  It might also help halt the spread of the flu, according to a 2009 study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

-- Nasal Strips: Nasal strips can help pull the nostrils open to ease congestion, especially at night.  Some strips contain menthol -- a vaporized plant extract that can relive congestion and make breathing easier.

-- Pillbox: Flu medications come in all shapes, sizes and formulations. If you ditched the drug packaging in a flu-induced haze, make sure you know what you're taking by checking -- a pill identification system from the National Institutes of Health.

-- Online Flu Trackers: Knowing where flu is and how to avoid it can boost your chances of making it through the season unscathed.  Flu trackers like Google Flu Trends can help.  Research shows the search engine data lines up well with national statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

-- Veggie Steamer: Eating steamed veggies is a great way to boost your immune system and get your daily vitamins. Steaming veggies rather than frying them preserves their flu-fighting antioxidants, according to a 2008 report in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry. Boiled veggies are healthy, too. So fill up on soup loaded with vitamin-rich carrots, sweet potato, spinach, and broccoli.

-- Soup Maker: Besides getting lots of rest, filling up on fluids is the best advice for soothing flu symptoms.  Making your own soup is a great way to get fluids and vitamins at the same time, with some decongesting spices and steam to boot.  Adding ginger and garlic to soup can help boost the taste and get things flowing inside your sinuses. Hot peppers are good too -- if you can take the heat.

-- Juicer: Make the most of your fluids by packing them full of immunity-boosting vitamins and antioxidants.  Try mixing oranges with green tea, ginger and a bit of honey for a frothy, flu-fighting brew.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Too Few Americans Get Their Flu Shot

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- It’s never too late to get your flu shot, according to experts who say too few Americans take advantage of the beneficial shot.

HealthDay reports that only 42 percent of people in the United States received the vaccines during last year’s flu season, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"People often shrug off concerns about the flu, yet every year it strikes up to 20 percent of Americans, sending more than 200,000 to the hospital and killing thousands," Dr. Thomas Slama, president of the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) and a clinical professor of medicine at the Indiana University School of Medicine, said.

The flu vaccination is available as an intradermal shot that uses a needle that's 90 percent smaller than a regular shot and injects the vaccination into the skin and not the muscle.

The vaccination is also available in the form of a nasal spray.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio´╗┐


It's Not Too Late: Where to Get a Flu Shot

Joe Raedle/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- It’s that time of the year again: flu, and in turn, flu shot, season.

If you still haven’t gotten your shot yet, it's not too late.  Here are places where you can get the vaccine:

Health Care Offices: Doctor’s offices remain the most common location for people to receive the influenza vaccine.  So far, about 55 percent of people who have gotten a flu shot went to a medical office to receive it.

Pharmacies: Pharmacy giants like Walgreens, Rite-Aid, Duane Reade and CVS offer flu shots to the public. Most insurance plans are accepted at these places, and customers usually do not need an appointment.

Wholesale Stores: Costco, Sam’s Club and other wholesale retailers often have pharmacies built into their superstores.  It’s the same deal as the pharmacy giants: they take most major insurance plans and there is usually no scheduling necessary.

Grocery Stores: Many supermarkets, the bigger names and some local joints, offer the shot, which is usually administered by pharmacists.  Often, these places offer extended and weekend service, along with low rates or coupons.

Your Employer: To reduce sick days, many companies offer flu shots at work.  Check with your company or boss to see if a flu shot may be available at your place of employment.  Companies often take on the cost as an incentive to keep their employees healthy and safe during flu season.

For parents who may be worried about costs, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Vaccine for Children Program offers free vaccines to financially vulnerable children.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Delta In-Flight Ad Spurs Backlash From Flu Vaccine Advocates

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- A video commercial sponsored by a non-profit, anti-vaccine organization now playing on Delta flights has come under fire by a pediatrician organization, prompting the airlines to review its approval process for in-flight programming.

The nearly three-minute public service announcement put on by The National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC) describes alternative methods to preventing the flu besides getting the flu shot.

The video also includes a statement by the president and co-founder of NVIC, Barbara Loe Fisher, saying the flu shot doesn't effectively protect against nearly 80 percent of flu cases.

In a letter to Delta, the American Academy of Pediatrics president, Robert Block, urged the airline company to consider removing the ads.

According to ABC News' Chief Health and Medical Editor, Dr Richard Besser, the ad leaves out the importance of the flu vaccine.

"Flu vaccination is the most effective way to prevent the flu," said Besser. "This was not made clear in the ads from the National Vaccine Information Center."

In a response to the AAP, Delta conceded that the video does not point to vaccines as the primary source for flu prevention.

"Therefore, we have changed our internal review processes and procedures to help ensure that submitted content is vetted differently going forward," Delta's general manager of occupational health, Barbara Martin, wrote in response.

Delta declined to comment to ABC News on specific changes it plans to make to its review process.

The video led to an online petition calling for removal of the ads. The petition has received more than 2,000 signatures.

The paid commercial will run on Delta flights through November, which complies with the two parties' contract.

In December, the vaccine advocacy group Every Child by Two will display its PSA on Delta flights calling for everyone 6 months and older to get the flu shot.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Top Tips for the Flu Season

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Flu season is here. But what’s the big deal about the flu? It’s just the flu, right?


If you’re young and healthy, most likely you will just feel lousy for a week or two, miss some work, and spread the infection to some of your favorite people. If you’re elderly, have medical problems, are pregnant, or are a young child, you may not be so lucky. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, each year more than 200,000 people are hospitalized due to influenza. Depending on the year, between 3,000 and 49,000 people die.

The best way to prevent the flu is to get vaccinated.

A new study on flu vaccines found that the flu vaccine doesn’t work as well as we thought or would like. However, it still offers considerable protection. In adults ages 18-65 the benefits of the flu shot vary year by year, but on average the vaccine is 59-percent protective. For children the story is better. For those younger than 7 the nasal spray vaccine is 83-percent protective. Clearly, we need better vaccines but it’s still a really good idea to get vaccinated.

A couple of myths to bust:

1.  Can the flu shot give me the flu?

No. You may have a sore arm or a little fever, but the shot does not contain a live virus and cannot give you the flu.

2.  If I got the flu shot last year, do I need it this year?

Yes.  It isn’t clear how long protection lasts and most years the vaccine protects against different strains of flu than the year before.

How do you know if you have the flu or just a bad cold? Flu symptoms usually come on suddenly and frequently and include high fever, headache, fatigue, cough, sore throat and body aches. Some people, particularly children, may have diarrhea and vomiting. If you have these symptoms, do not come to work. The last thing you really want to do is infect others.

Finally, here is some advice for what to do if you get the flu.

If you have underlying medical problems, call your doctor early in the illness to see if they want to
prescribe an antiviral drug.

Stay home until your fever has been gone for at least 24 hours. That will cut down on the number of
people you give this to.

Cover your coughs and sneezes.

Keep your hands clean. Use soap and water or hand sanitizer frequently, especially after coughing or sneezing.

Drink plenty of liquids.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Study Questions Effectiveness of Flu Shot

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(MINNEAPOLIS) -- A new review of the flu shot’s effectiveness has found considerable room for improvement. But the vaccine is still our best defense against the virus for now, experts say.

The trivalent flu shot, which is the one offered at most doctors’ offices and pharmacies, reduced the risk of illness 59 percent of the time, according to the review of 10 studies that spanned 12 flu seasons. The vaccine is designed to guard against the three most popular flu strains each season, which in 2012 include H1N1, H3N2 and influenza B.

“The ongoing public health burden caused by seasonal influenza and the potential global effect of a severe pandemic suggests an urgent need for a new generation of more highly effective and cross-protective vaccines that can be manufactured rapidly,” Michael Osterholm at the University of Minnesota and colleagues reported Tuesday in Lancet Infectious Diseases. “In the meantime, we should maintain public support for present vaccines that are the best intervention available for seasonal influenza.”

The ever-evolving flu virus complicates the development of vaccines, which are strain-specific.

“That’s why we need a new vaccine every year,” said Dr. William Schaffner, chairman of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. But scientists are working toward a stronger, more universal vaccine that could be a one-shot deal -- with the occasional booster.

Schaffner said the current vaccines are good but not great. But paraphrasing French philosopher Voltaire, he warned that waiting for perfect is the greatest enemy of the current good.

“While we hope and wait for a perfect vaccine, we’ve got a good one that’s capable of preventing influenza and its complication,” Schaffner said. “It can’t prevent every instance, but it can prevent many. And that’s a good thing.”

The 59-percent effectiveness of the vaccine suggested by the review challenges previous estimates, which range from 70 to 90 percent. In a commentary also published in Lancet Infectious Diseases, Heath Kelly at the Victorian Infectious Diseases Reference Laboratory in Melbourne, Australia, and Marta Valenciano at EpiConcept in Paris argue those estimates should be revisited.

“Now might also be an appropriate time to use revised estimates of the most probable effectiveness of influenza vaccines to re-examine the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of some policy options,” they wrote.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that anyone older than 6 months get a flu shot every year. But only one-third of eligible Americans got vaccinated last year.

“There’s still time to get vaccinated,” said Schaffner. “It’s widely available and absolutely everybody should go out and get it.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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