Flu shots

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

With the arrival of May, the flu season that started last year has officially ended. As a result of the spread of a new variant of flu virus, called swine flu or H1N1 flu, more Americans received seasonal flu vaccinations -- 40 percent, up from the previous highest vaccination rate of 33 percent in the 2008-2009 season.

The annual flu shots were recommended for approximately 85 percent of the population, especially children, pregnant women, senior citizens, health care workers and individuals with chronic health conditions.

Seventy percent of senior citizens 65 and older received flu shots in the just-ended season, by far the highest rate of any group.

Part of the motivation for last year's increase in flu shots was concern about the H1N1 virus, which health officials predicted would spread around the world and result in hundreds of thousands of deaths. Vaccine to combat this new strain was in short supply, and many individuals got the seasonal flu shot to increase their protection. This fall's seasonal vaccine will include H1N1, so only one shot will be necessary.

In addition, many of us adopted basic sanitary precautions such as frequent hand-washing as we tried to stay healthy -- practices that would be wise to continue year-around.

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