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• The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have reminded us that every year more than 200,000 Americans are hospitalized with the flu, and roughly 36,000 flu-related deaths occur. For this reason and reasons to follow, Dr.Shinstrom, our Medical Director, wants everyone to know there are important, new recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control(CDC) regarding the composition of this year’s flu vaccine and regarding those who should receive it. This year’s vaccine is an entirely new formulation containing three new virus strains that were not included last year. It is expected that this new, more effective vaccine will have greater success than last year in preventing the flu during this upcoming year.

For the very first time, CDC is recommending that all children between the ages of 5 years and 18 years receive the vaccine; and that children between the ages of 6 months and 59 months also be vaccinated in accordance with previous recommendations. It should be noted in this latter regard that, depending upon vaccine availability, children between the ages of 6 months and 35 months may need to receive their vaccine at the San Juan County Health Department. Previous recommendations apply in that adults greater than age 50 should also receive the new vaccine. Additionally, there are special groups of patients who should also receive the vaccine. They include persons age 50 or less who have chronic illnesses, health care workers, pregnant women, and those caring for patients at high risk for influenza complications. Last of all, any adult between the ages of 18 years and 49 years who wish to be vaccinated should be able to receive the vaccine.

In any given year, the optimal time to vaccinate patients cannot be precisely determined because influenza seasons vary both in timing and in duration; and, more than one outbreak may occur in a single community in a single year. Currently, some time in mid-October is the target time to begin flu vaccinations. Remember it is a date that may change depending on recommendations coming from CDC and the County Health Department.

Orcas Family health Center has ordered 400 flu shots as well as several doses of a nasal spray, available to some patients upon discussion with Dr. Shinstrom, which will be available beginning October 1, 2008. Regularly scheduled flu shot clinics will be held beginning in October. Call 376-7778 for an appointment or if you have any questions about this year’s flu shots.

To read the CDC recommendations in their entirety, click on the following link: MMWR – Influenza Information

Why a Yearly Flu Shot Can Protect Your Heart

The newest tool for preventing heart attack is a flu shot!Between 10% to 20% of people catch the flu annually, and a bad case can be deadly for individuals with coronary heart disease. Yet only one in three adults with cardiovascular disease gets an annual flu shot.

People with heart disease are not only at higher risk for flu than the general population but also are more likely to have a severe case and to develop complications such as viral or bacterial pneumonia. What’s more, the flu can worsen coronary heart disease and trigger a heart attack.

No one is absolutely sure how the flu increases the risk of a heart attack. One possibility is that the inflamation associated with the flu can trigger the rupture of unstable plaque, leading to the formation of a blood clot that could cause a heart attack.

The strongest evidence for protection from a flu shot in people with heart disease comes from the Flu Vaccination in Acute Coronary Syndromes (FLUVACS) study. In that study, some 300 individuals who had been hospitalized for either a heart attack or a planned angioplasty were randomly assigned to receive a flu vaccine or remain unvaccinated. Over the next year, twice as many of the unvaccinated group (23%) died of heart disease, had a nonfatal heart attack, or developed severe ischemia (insufficient blood supply to the heart tissue), compared with those who were vaccinated (11%).

The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends a flu shot with the same enthusiasm as it does the control of cholesterol, blood pressure, and other modifiable risk factors for heart atacks. In a scientific advisory issued by the AHA and the American College of Cardiology heart doctors were asked to do something they may not normally do – give their patients flu shots. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued extensive recommendations pertaining to those individuals who should obtain flu shots. Go to our Home Page and click on Flu Alert for full details.

Besides getting a flu shot, two other simple measures – frequent hand washing (see Hand Washing 101) and, if possible, avoiding close contact with a flu sufferer – can help reduce the risk of catching the flu.

Source: Johns Hokins Health Alerts