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Press Release

For Immediate Release: October 8, 1999
Contact: CDC Media Relations (404) 639-3286

Flu Season 1999-2000: Persons with Chronic Conditions

  • Flu vaccine is specifically recommended for people who are at high risk for developing serious complications as a result of influenza infection. These high-risk groups include all people aged 65 years or older and people of any age with chronic diseases of the heart, lung, or kidneys, diabetes, immunosuppression, or severe forms of anemia.
  • Other groups for whom vaccine is specifically recommended are residents of nursing homes and other chronic-care facilities housing patients of any age with chronic medical conditions, and children and teenagers who are receiving long-term aspirin therapy and who may, therefore, be at risk for developing Reye syndrome after an influenza virus infection.
  • There are several factors that contribute to low flu vaccination rates among some high-risk adult populations, such as people with chronic diseases. These factors include
    • Missed opportunities by health-care providers to give the shot to at-risk patients;
    • Lack of comprehensive vaccine delivery systems in the public and private sector;
    • Limited reimbursement and coverage by insurers;
    • Lack of organized vaccination programs where adults congregate such as work sites, and;
    • Unnecessary fears about adverse reactions.
  • Although annual flu shots have long been recommended for people in the high-risk groups, many still do not receive the vaccine -- particularly those 65 years of age and older. Some people are not vaccinated because of misconceptions about influenza and the vaccine. Vaccines produced from the 1940s to the mid-1960s were not as highly purified as modern influenza vaccines, and it was these impurities that caused most of the side effects. Since the side effects associated with these early vaccines -- fever, headache, muscle aches, and fatigue -- were similar to some of the symptoms of flu, people believed that the vaccine had caused them to get the infection. Influenza vaccine is made with "killed" viruses and cannot cause the flu.
  • Mild arm soreness from the shot is the most common side effect. The most serious side effect is an allergic reaction in people who have a severe allergy to eggs, since the viruses used in the vaccine are grown in hens' eggs. For this reason, people who have an allergy to eggs should not get a flu shot.
  • Although vaccination is the primary method for control of influenza, antiviral agents have a role in the prevention and treatment of infection. Amantadine and rimantadine are chemically related drugs that interfere with the replication cycle of influenza type A viruses. They are approved for both the prevention and treatment of influenza A, but are not effective against influenza type B or other viral respiratory pathogens. Approved by the Food and Drug Administration in July 1999, zanamivir, another antiviral drug, is approved for the treatment, but not prevention, of influenza infections caused by both type A and type B viruses.
  • The optimal time for persons at high risk for influenza-related complications to get a flu shot is usually the period from October to mid-November. It takes about 1 to 2 weeks after vaccination for antibody against influenza to develop and provide protection. In addition, CDC is recommending these adults get a pneumococcal vaccination (if they haven't already had one). For most people, one pneumococcal shot is enough protection for a lifetime. However, people under 65 years of age with a chronic illness or compromised immune system and who have previously received a pneumococcal shot, should get another one 5-10 years after the first one.>

Flu Season 1999-2000: See also...

  • Secretary Shalala Urges Older Americans to get 1999 flu shot
  • Is there a new flu virus circulating this season?
    Has flu season come early in the United States?
  • Vaccine Information
  • Information for Travelers
  • Flu Pandemics


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