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Avian Flu Worries Provide Reminder to Get Your Flu Shot Now for the 2005-06 Influenza Season!

PASADENA, Calif. -- Almost lost in the barrage of news stories about the Avian Flu is another important story: Flu vaccine is now available for the coming flu season. It's time to protect yourself against the annual flu outbreak by getting that flu shot now.

"These preparations for Avian Flu are also reminding us to get a seasonal flu shot, especially because we have safe and effective vaccine shots available right now," says Kaiser Permanente's Stanley Shapiro, MD, co-chairman of the Southern California Regional Adult Immunization Taskforce. "Think of the flu vaccine as important insurance, the same way you protect your home and car from harm. So why not protect your family's health with simple flu shots?"

The CDC estimates that flu afflicts 10 to 20 percent of Americans each flu season. Although most people recover, each year the flu and its complications kill an estimated 36,000 Americans and cause 200,000 to be hospitalized. In Southern California, Kaiser Permanente plans to vaccinate more than 600,000 members.

Yet, despite public education about the risks of flu, fewer than half of the 185 million Americans at high risk for the illness get a flu shot every year. Dr. Shapiro believes that is because there remains confusion among the public over what flu is, what vaccinations are able to do, and what the side effects of the shots are.

"At Kaiser Permanente Southern California, we use only inactivated flu virus, so there's no chance of developing the infection from the vaccine itself," says Shapiro. "There's evidence that people who are vaccinated each year do better, and if they do get sick, they are less likely to be hospitalized and less likely to have the severest symptoms."

According to the CDC, as many as 97 million influenza shots are available in the U.S. for the upcoming flu season. Flu shots are recommended for persons age 50 or older, perons with chonic health conditions, women who are pregnant during flu season, health care workers, all children age 6 to 23 months, and anyone living with a someone who is in any of the these categories.

"It's hard to know what will happen this flu season. We've been extremely fortunate over the last couple of years to not have a major outbreak," says Shapiro.

Because people's immune systems take time to respond to the flu vaccine, they should get vaccinated early each fall to prevent getting the flu or reduce the severity if they do get it, recommends Dr. Shapiro. "The earlier you get the shot, the better."

Kaiser Permanente is America's leading integrated health plan. Founded in 1945, it is a nonprofit, group practice prepayment program with Southern California headquarters in Pasadena, California. Kaiser Permanente serves the health care needs of 3.1 million members in Southern California. Today it encompasses the nonprofit Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, Inc., Kaiser Foundation Hospitals and their subsidiaries, and the for-profit Southern California Permanente Medical Group. Kaiser Permanente's Southern California Region includes more than 47,530 technical, administrative and clerical employees and caregivers, and more than 5,200 physicians representing all specialties.

Note: For more information, or to interview Dr. Shapiro, please contact Michael Byrne, Kaiser Permanente Media Relations at 626-405-5534.


--Influenza, or flu, is a respiratory infection caused by a variety of flu viruses.

--Symptoms start rapidly and may include body aches, chills, dry cough, fever, headache, sore throat, stuffy nose. The flu almost never causes symptoms in the stomach and intestines.

--For elderly people, newborn babies, and people with certain chronic illnesses, the flu and its complications can be life-threatening.

--Flu outbreaks usually begin suddenly and occur mainly in the late fall and winter. The disease spreads through communities creating an epidemic.

--Children are two to three times more likely than adults to get sick with the flu, and children frequently spread the virus to others.

--You can get the flu if someone with the flu coughs or sneezes near you. You can get the flu simply by touching a surface that has been contaminated by someone who has the flu.

--The viruses can pass through the air and enter your body through your nose or mouth.

--You are at greatest risk of getting infected in highly populated areas and in schools.


--Although no vaccine is 100 percent effective against preventing disease, vaccination is the best protection against influenza.

--Because the virus constantly changes, the vaccine formula is changed every year and people must get immunization each year.

--The annual flu vaccine provides no protection against the H5N1 avian flu that is spreading in Asia.

--Flu vaccine can cause side effects, including soreness at the site of the vaccination, fever, tiredness, and sore muscles. These side effects may begin six to 12 hours after vaccination and may last for up to two days. The flu vaccine may contain some egg protein, which can cause an allergic reaction if you are allergic to eggs.
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Date:Oct 28, 2005
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