DEAR ABBY: Influenza, which can be prevented by a simple vaccination, kills as many as 40,000 people each year in the United States. Won't you remind your readers that October to mid-November is the ideal time to receive a "flu" (influenza) shot?
Although flu shots are recommended for all seniors (65 and over), many younger readers should roll up their sleeves, too. Flu shots are also recommended for any person with a chronic illness (such as heart disease, asthma or other lung disease, diabetes and kidney disease), as well as for adults who live or work with people who are at risk for influenza. Flu shots can be given to anyone, including healthy adults who want to reduce the likelihood of becoming ill with influenza this season.
While your readers are requesting their flu shots, they should also ask their physicians if they need a "pneumonia shot." Pneumococcal disease kills about 40,000 people each year in the United States. A one-time "pneumonia shot" is recommended for all adults 65 and over -- yet less than one-third of these adults have been vaccinated against this disease.
If your readers would like to receive brochures about additional vaccinations that are recommended for adults, they should send a long, self-addressed, stamped envelope to: The Immunization Action Coalition, P.O. Box 4627, St. Paul, Minn. 55104.
Flu season is rapidly approaching. It doesn't matter how old you are. Getting immunized is a lifelong, life-protecting job. Don't leave your clinic without making sure you've received all the shots you need. If you don't have a doctor, call your public health department to find out where you can go for shots. -- DEBORAH WEXLER, M.D., EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, IMMUNIZATION ACTION COALITION, ST. PAUL
DEAR DR. WEXLER: Thank you for an important reminder to my readers. According to a recent statement by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the strain of flu virus expected this year is more dangerous than last year's and can lead to deadly complications in elderly people. The current vaccine being offered is effective against this virus and several other strains that are also expected.
Readers, I had my flu shot last week, and my pneumonia shot last December. Both were quick and virtually painless, not to mention cheap and effective health insurance. Don't put it off.