Get annual flu shots now to better protect yourself, others

Guest Editorial
Although flu shots have become an annual health measure for everyone older than 6 months, senior citizens have a special opportunity this year to get extra protection.

People 65 and older should check with their physicians or other health-care professionals about taking advantage of this option, offered this year for the first time.

For seniors, the flu shots can provide extra protection against what can become a miserable illness at best and a fatal one at worst. Generally, senior citizens are the most vulnerable to contracting this disease, and the flu death rate among the aged is higher. That’s because seniors’ immune systems generally are weaker than those of younger folks.

For the first time, people 65 and older can get Fluzone High-Dose manufactured by Sanofi-Aventis, an international pharmaceutical company.

The beefed-up vaccine is available at physicians’ offices, although some of them may not have it in stock at this time.

It’s also of great importance that younger adults and children get their regular flu shots.

Although influenza is unpredictable, it is likely that the 2009 H1N1 viruses and regular seasonal viruses will cause illness in the U.S. this flu season.

According the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the 2010-11 flu vaccine will protect against three different viruses: an H3N2 virus, an influenza B virus and the H1N1 virus that caused so much illness last season.

There is no vaccine that is 100 percent certain to prevent flu. However, those who go unprotected are taking a big risk.

A dwindling number of Americans and others around the globe remember the influenza pandemic of 1918-19. Death estimates worldwide ranged as high as 40 million. That scourge has been cited as the most devastating epidemic in world history.

Influenza does a lot more damage than make people sick. It causes many other problems, such as absenteeism at work and in the schools. So if you protect yourself, you can avoid spreading the flu to others. And that may make a life-saving difference for someone you know.