According to the Centers for Disease Control, flu experts voted for “universal” vaccinations for all individuals ages 6 months and older beginning during this 2010 -2011 season.
The vast majority of people who get the flu experience “mild” symptoms or at least limited consequences to the disease. They will not require medical care or drug treatment and will recover at home with the help of sleep, fluids, and perhaps homemade chicken soup.
Vaccination of Average Jane or Joe, “universal vaccination,” is recommended to keep the pool of ill and potential disease spreaders – vectors – at a minimum. Some Average Jane and Joes are urged to be vaccinated because they are in contact with subgroups that are at risk for developing flu complications. These Janes and Joes include health care and childcare workers.
For the Average Joe and Jane then, they will manage to keep enough fluids down to prevent dangerous dehydration, aspirin and other over-the-counter drugs will control the fever and body aches, and their blood sugar levels will not plummet with a temporary flu “fast.”
There are significant subgroups of the population, however, which are at “high-risk” for developing flu-related complications. Some of these individuals are either very old or very young. Others have serious and chronic medical conditions that limit their body’s ability to compensate for or adapt to flu symptoms such as bronchitis, pneumonia, asthma, unstable diabetes or congestive heart failure.
Per the CDC, people at a high risk of developing complications include:
• Children under 5 (especially those 6 months to age 2);
• Adults 65 and over;
• Pregnant women;
• Native American and Alaskan Natives also had a higher incidence of complications last season.
In addition, patients who have the following preexisting conditions should be vaccinated to avoid developing complications:
• Neurological conditions (such as cerebral palsy, epilepsy, spinal cord injury, cerebral palsy, stroke, or muscular dystrophy);
• Chronic lung disease such as chronic obstructive lung disease (COPD) or cystic fibrosis;
• Blood disorders, such as sickle cell anemia;
• Endocrine disorders such as diabetes mellitus;
• Kidney, liver and metabolic disorders;
• Individuals with weakened immune systems (HIV, aids, cancer or those on long-term steroid);
• People 19 years or younger on long-term aspirin therapy;
• Individuals morbidly obese with a BMI of 40 or greater.
The third group of those particularly encouraged to be vaccinated include medical and childcare workers, as well as residents of nursing homes. In fact, mandatory vaccination of all healthcare workers is an ongoing debate and one strongly recommended by infectious disease specialists.
There is a small group of individuals who should not be vaccinated without consultation with their physician, including:
• Those allergic to chicken eggs;
• Those who have had an allergic reaction to a prior influenza vaccination;
• Those who have a history of Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS) within 6 months of a prior influenza immunization;
• Babies less than 6 months of age;
• Individuals moderately-to-severely ill with a fever, until their recovery.
Finally, in closing, being afraid of needles is no excuse. Vaccination with the nasal-spray method is “always an option” for healthy people ages 2 to 49 that are not pregnant or ill.