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Vaccine protects from more than just the flu

Oct. 08, 2012 @ 12:00 AM

Getting yourself and everyone in your family vaccinated against influenza does more than just protect you from the flu; it protects you from diseases made worse by inflammation and decreases the risk of heart disease and stroke. Plus, it protects others too. If you get the flu, you may transmit it to someone who is at high risk for flu-related complications -- and that includes anyone over 65 or someone with a respiratory condition (asthma, COPD) or diabetes. The majority of deaths caused by the flu (and resulting pneumonia) are among those 65 or older. And people with diabetes are more likely to get -- and die from -- the flu than people without the condition.

The Basics: This year's flu shot and nasal spray protects against three strains of the flu (but not swine flu, as it did last year): H1N1, H3N2 and B/Wisconsin. The inactivated (NOT a live virus) flu shot is for everyone 6 months and older. It comes in a "high dose" for people 65-plus. Only one brand, Afluria, should not be given to children 8 or younger. Children 9 or younger who've never had a flu shot will need two doses; everyone else needs one.

A live (but weakened) vaccine is available as a nasal spray for people 2 to 49, who are not pregnant and don't have a chronic disease or condition.

Bonus! If you are concerned about the mercury-containing preservative in some flu shots, a thimerosal-free (mercury-free) influenza vaccine is available; ask your doctor or pharmacist.

Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of "The Dr. Oz Show," and Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Medical Officer at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute. For more information go to www.RealAge.com.

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