Vaccines across the lifespan – more information

Flu vaccine:  Influenza (“flu”) is a contagious disease that spreads around the United States every winter, usually between October and May.  Flu is caused by the influenza virus, and can be spread by coughing, sneezing, and close contact. Anyone can get flu, but the risk of getting flu is highest among children. Symptoms come on suddenly and may last several days. They can include:

• fever/chills

• sore throat

• muscle aches

• fatigue

• cough

• headache

• runny or stuffy nose

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Flu can make some people much sicker than others. These people include young children, people 65 and older, pregnant women, and people with certain health conditions—such as heart, lung or kidney disease, or a weakened immune system. Flu vaccine is especially important for these people.  Flu vaccine will be available soon at the Family Health Center.  It can also be obtained from many pharmacies and some drive-by flu injection sites.

Flu viruses are constantly changing. That’s why each year’s flu vaccine is made to protect from viruses that are most likely to cause the flu that year. While flu vaccine cannot prevent all cases of flu, it is our best defense against the disease. Inactivated flu vaccine (the kind that you get by injection) protects against 3 or 4 different influenza viruses and takes 2 weeks before it will provide you with protection – but that protection lasts several months to a year.

Td vs Tdap: TD is the vaccine for tetanus and diptheria.  It is recommended for all adults every 10 years, or if you sustain a high-risk injury your doctor will give you a dose if it is > 5 years since your last tetanus shot.  Tdap is a vaccine for tetanus, diptheria and pertussis (whooping cough).  Most everyone has had the Tdap as a child, but until recently it was thought that immunity to pertussis was lifelong.  We now know differently.  Immunity to pertussis fades and revaccination is very important, especially for those over age 50 years – the age of most grandparents.   During 2012, more than 48,000 cases of whooping cough were reported across the United States, including 20 deaths. All adults are recommended to get a dose of Tdap vaccine, which protects against whooping cough. It does not matter how long ago your last Td vaccine was – it’s ok to have the Tdap at any time.  Serious illness and death is most common among infants, so it is especially important that pregnant women, parents, family members (especially grandparents) , and anyone else in contact with young infants is up to date with their pertussis vaccination.

Whooping cough is very contagious and most severe for babies. People with whooping cough usually

spread the disease by coughing or sneezing while in close contact with others, who then breathe in the bacteria that cause the disease. Many babies who get whooping cough are infected by family or friends who might not even know they have the disease and who, although vaccinated years ago, now are no longer immune.

About half of babies younger than 1 year of age who get the disease need treatment in the hospital. About 1 in 4 hospitalized babies with whooping cough get pneumonia (lung infection), and about 2 in 3 babies will have trouble breathing. Whooping cough can be deadly for 1 or 2 in 100 babies who are hospitalized.  Because the disease can make babies so sick, and they can catch it from anyone around them, they need protection. These are the three important ways you can help provide that protection:

  • All pregnant women should be vaccinated in their third trimester
  • Vaccinated family members and caregivers are the only people who should be allowed to come in contact with very young babies
  • Babies should get all recommended doses of his whooping cough vaccine

I have attached the recommended vaccine charts from the CDC for children, teens and adults.  You can also visit the CDC site at http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/adults/index.html.  This site has much information about all the vaccines recommended as well as about other vaccines recommended for travelers outside the United States.

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