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Stopping Influenza's Harm


By Peter Dehnel, MD

Starting this fall, it is strongly recommended that all children from 6 months to 18 years of age be immunized against influenza - the true "flu." This is extremely important because the harm caused each year by influenza can be reduced for a whole community by immunizing the children and teens of that community. It is the first time that ALL pediatric patients are encouraged to get the vaccine on an annual basis.

Four key points explaining why we all benefit from expanded vaccination are:

1. Children and teens with high-risk medical conditions are more likely to actually receive the vaccine each year.
2. It will significantly reduce the illness and occasional death in otherwise healthy children that are not in that "high-risk" category.
3. The biggest source of influenza in any community is school-age children and teens, and this will help to reduce the total number of influenza cases in any community for all ages.
4. Overall deaths related to influenza will be reduced, with the biggest improvement being in senior citizens and those patients who are at increased risk.

There are two forms of the influenza vaccine: the standard injection and a nasal spray. The nasal spray is a good alternative for most people between two and 49 years of age, and is probably more effective in preventing "breakthrough" cases of influenza. Patients with certain medical conditions, the most common of which is asthma, should not get the nasal spray but stick with the injectable form of the vaccine.

Plan now to have your child vaccinated against influenza this fall and/or early winter. It will go a long way to help your entire family- from grandparents on down -to have a healthier season.

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