Dryden Family Medicine
The medical office that specializes in you and your family

607-844-8181     PO Box 8, 5 Evergreen Street, Dryden, NY 13053

Do Your Part to Fight Influenza

By William Klepack, M.D.

Influenza invades Tompkins County every year as inevitably as the snow flies. Taking steps to protect ourselves from getting the flu makes good sense for our own wellbeing and for the health of our families, and our community.

Guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) for vaccination in the 2004-05 flu season have altered significantly. This is also the first year in which two types of influenza vaccine are now widely available. Please take a few minutes to read this column to learn the latest information.

Basic information on Influenza
In the U.S., the flu claims the lives of 38,000 people annually. The majority are either very young, elderly, or suffer from chronic illness (such as heart or lung disease, cancer, or diabetes) or diseases that weaken the immune system (such as HIV). The group most likely to die from influenza is the very elderly.

Influenza symptoms include chills and high fever (typically 102 to 104 degrees), head and body aches, and respiratory infection that causes sore throat and often a wracking cough. Symptoms typically do not include upset stomach, vomiting, or diarrhea.

Who should be vaccinated?
The latest guidelines from the CDC have limited the injectable vaccine to the high risk group to include children age six months to two years old. (They are recommended for vaccination not only because they are at high risk for getting the flu but also because young children spread flu viruses to parents grandparents and the rest of us. )

Other members of the high risk group recommended for vaccination are:
- People 65 years of age or older
- Residents of long-term care facilities
- People of ANY age with chronic disease of the heart and circulatory system, lungs, metabolic or immune systems
- Women who will be pregnant during flu season
- Health-care workers
- Parents or out of or in home caregivers of infants less than or equal to six months

How is the flu vaccine different this year?
For the first time there are two types of flu vaccine widely available: the standard inactivated influenza vaccine shot, and a new live influenza vaccine that is sprayed into the nostrils. The live intranasal vaccine is approved for healthy children and adults from ages five through 49 years of age; however, it is not approved for people in the high risk group. This is because the nasal vaccine causes the shedding of live weakened virus. This nasal vaccine is called Flumist and under CDC rules can be given to people who are in the right age group and wish to be vaccinated.

When should I get vaccinated?
Last year the flu season reached its peak between Thanksgiving and Christmas. In other years, the flu season hasn't reached its peak until January and sometimes as late as March. We are recommending that people in the high risk category get vaccinated as soon as possible to receive the full benefits of protection.  

We do continue to vaccinate until the flu season is over, however; so you should still see your doctor for a vaccination. You can start getting protection within a week or two, with full immunity coming six weeks after vaccination.

Is the flu vaccine safe?
The flu vaccine is closely monitored for safety. Some vaccine was held back from distribution, but this merely indicates that the monitoring is doing its job.  The safety of the vaccine is  not a problem.  In terms of side effects, severe allergic reactions to the flu vaccine are very rare and local reactions usually mild.  If you have life threatening reactions to eggs or have had a previous negative reaction to flu vaccine, you should talk with your doctor about whether you should be vaccinated at all.

There is still medication that can help. If you need some for preventing you from getting the flu see us for consideration for a prescription. If you become ill get into to see us within the first two days so a medication could help. The medication cannot help if you have been ill for more than two days.

. Both our office and the Health Department have vaccine available.
Call or ask for information.

What else can I do?
* cover your sneezes and your coughs
* after sneezing or coughing wash your hands
* Wash your hands frequently
* do not work if you are ill
* stay away from high risk people if you think you are getting ill

If you have additional questions about flu or flu vaccination, contact us or call the Tompkins County Flu Hot Line at 274-6609. The Hot Line provides information 24 hours a day, seven days a week on the flu and vaccination clinics.

Dr. Klepack is board certified in family practice and is a member of the medical staff of Cayuga Medical Center. He is the medical director of the Tompkins County Health Department and is in practice with Dryden Family Medicine.