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Internists Remind Public to Get Seasonal Flu Shot

Seasonal flu is one of many vaccines recommended for adults to protect against serious diseases

PHILADELPHIA, September 14, 2009 -- While H1N1 flu has received a lot of attention this year, it is imperative for people to get vaccinated for seasonal flu, advises the American Colleges of Physicians (ACP).

Every year in the U.S. about 36,000 people die from flu-related causes and more than 200,000 people are hospitalized from flu-related complications. Flu shots can spare people from suffering serious illness and potentially save thousands of dollars in health care costs.

“This year brings the double-threat of seasonal flu and H1N1 flu,” said Joseph W. Stubbs, MD, FACP, president, ACP. “So it is vital to understand that the H1N1 vaccine -- when it is available -- will not protect you against seasonal flu.”

Seasonal flu activity can start as early as September, so the best time to get vaccinated is throughout the fall and winter. While it is important to get the seasonal flu vaccine now, flu viruses can circulate well into the spring and summer. People who are unable to get vaccinated now can do so as late as March.

Approximately 83 percent of the U.S. population is specifically recommended for annual vaccination against seasonal flu, but less than 40 percent of the population received the 2008-09 flu vaccine.

“It is also important for physicians to immunize themselves, their patients, and their staff members and other health care workers consistent with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Recommended Adult Immunization Schedule,” said Dr. Stubbs.

Only about 36 percent of all health care workers are immunized against flu each year, and multiple studies show that 70 percent or more of health care workers continue to work despite being ill with flu, increasing exposure of patients and co-workers.

In addition to seasonal and H1N1 flu, the list of vaccines that adults should discuss with their physicians includes, pneumococcal pneumonia, tetanus-diptheria-pertussis, hepatitis A and B, measles-mumps-rubella, chickenpox, meningococcal, human papillomavirus, and shingles.

ACP advises internists, family physicians, and subspecialists to conduct an immunization review at appropriate adult medical visits to educate patients about the benefits of vaccination and to assess whether the patient’s vaccination status is current, referring to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s Recommended Adult Immunization Schedule.

Physicians who administer vaccines should ensure appropriate documentation in the patient’s medical record.

Who Should Get Seasonal Flu Vaccine?

ACP recommends seasonal flu vaccine for:

  • Adults 50 or older.
  • Residents of long term care facilities housing persons with chronic medical conditions.
  • Anyone who has a serious long-term health problem with heart disease; lung disease; asthma; kidney disease; diabetes; or anemia and other blood disorders.
  • Anyone whose immune system is weakened because of HIV/AIDS or other diseases that affect the immune system; long-term treatment with drugs such as steroids; or cancer treatment with x-rays or drugs.
  • Women who will be past the third month of pregnancy during flu season.
  • Physicians, nurses, health care workers.
  • Family members and anyone else coming in close contact with people at risk of flu.
  • Children between ages 6 months and 18 years, unless they have a serious egg allergy.
Who Should Get H1N1 Flu Vaccine?

When the H1N1 flu vaccine is first available, persons in the following five target groups should be immunized:

  • Pregnant women
  • Persons who live with or provide care for infants less than 6 months old
  • Health care and emergency medical services personnel
  • Persons aged 6 months to 24 years old
  • Persons aged 25 to 64 years who have medical conditions that put them at higher risk for flu-related complications.
Immunization Resources from the American College of Physicians

The American College of Physicians is the largest medical specialty organization and the second-largest physician group in the United States. ACP members include 129,000 internal medicine physicians (internists), related subspecialists, and medical students. Internists specialize in the prevention, detection, and treatment of illness in adults. Follow ACP on Twitter and Facebook.

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