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Fight the Flu

If you didn’t get a flu shot last fall, it’s not too late.

By Sarah Aldridge | 02.07.2012
Originally Published February 2012

If you didn’t get a flu shot last fall, it’s not too late. Although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends getting a shot as soon as it is available each year, usually in September or October, you can still get vaccinated. In fact, influenza outbreaks typically peak during January, but can last until April or May.

Influenza is an infection of the upper respiratory tract caused by a virus. It is spread via airborne droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Symptoms usually appear one to three days after infection and can occur suddenly. Sore throat, fever, chills, muscle ache and headache are common. Most people recover within 10 days. However, secondary infections such as bacterial pneumonia can occur. According to the CDC, approximately 226,000 people are hospitalized yearly with flu complications. Rates of serious illness and death are highest among people age 65 and older, children younger than 2 years old and those who have medical conditions that increase their risk of developing complications.

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Because the strains of flu change from year to year and can spread quickly and cause epidemics, the CDC recommends that all people 6 months and older who aren’t contraindicated get an annual flu shot. The so-called “trivalent vaccine” available this year has three components: one influenza B virus strain and two influenza A virus subtypes, including the 2009 H1N1 virus.

New Fluzone Vaccine May Reduce Risk of Bleeds

Flu shots come in several forms. FluMist®, a nasal spray made from live, weakened flu viruses that do not cause disease, is recommended for healthy people ages 2 to 49, including women who are not pregnant. In contrast, flu shots made from killed viruses are given with a needle, typically in a muscle in the arm. They are preferred for people with immune suppression, including those with HIV. However, this population of patients may experience a weaker immune response to the vaccine.

New this year is Fluzone® Intradermal Influenza Virus Vaccine, which is given through the dermal layer of the skin. It may be ideal for people with bleeding disorders because it decreases the risk of bleeds at the injection site. Made by Sanofi Pasteur, the new vaccine has been used in more than 40 countries. It contains a microinjection system with an ultrafine needle, 90% shorter than the typical needle used for intramuscular flu shots.

In clinical trials, Fluzone Intradermal provided the same degree of immunity against influenza as intramuscular flu vaccines. It is recommended for adults 18 to 64 years old. Because Fluzone is injected into the skin, it produces more redness, swelling, itching and hardness at the injection site. These side effects are generally mild to moderate and subside in 3 – 7 days. As with other flu vaccines that contain egg protein, Fluzone Intradermal is not recommended for people who are allergic to eggs.

Fluzone High-Dose, which contains four times more antigen than its regular vaccine, is now available to seniors 65 and older. It is expected to prevent flu complications by triggering a greater immune response.

If you haven’t been immunized against this year’s flu strains, contact your hemophilia treatment center to find out where to get a flu shot and which type is best for you.

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