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You're Never Too Old for a Flu Shot
Date:1/9/2009

Death rates and complications plummet for immunized seniors, study found,,

FRIDAY, Jan. 9 (HealthDay News) -- If you're over 65, getting a flu shot every year could cut your risk of dying from flu in half, research suggests.

And, even if the vaccine isn't always a perfect match for the strains circulating in any given year, a recent New England Journal of Medicine study that included 10 flu seasons' worth of data also found that an annual vaccine decreases by one-third the risk of hospitalization due to flu complications.

"Most people feel that influenza is a mild disease and one that doesn't cause people to become very ill," said infectious disease specialist Dr. Michael Ison, of Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago. "But it can cause serious complications, and the majority of hospitalizations and illness is in people greater than 65."

Every year, between 5 percent and 20 percent of the U.S. population is infected with the flu virus, according to estimates from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And, far from being a mild annoyance, flu is responsible for more than 200,000 hospitalizations and about 36,000 deaths every year, according to the CDC.

To prevent some of these illnesses and deaths, the CDC recommends that many groups be vaccinated against the flu each year, including:

  • Pregnant women.
  • Children -- from 6 months to 5 years of age.
  • Anyone over age 50.
  • People with chronic medical conditions.
  • People who live in nursing homes or any other type of long-term care facility.
  • Caregivers of anyone listed above.
  • Health-care workers.

The best time to get the vaccine is in the early fall, according to Dr. Robert Schwartz, chairman of family medicine and community health at the Miller School of Medicine at the University of Miami. But both Schwartz and Ison sai
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