Those at highest risk of complications from the flu are young children; people 65 and older; pregnant women; and people with health conditions such as heart, lung or kidney disease, or a weakened immune system.
"Adults age 65 and older face the greatest risk of serious complications and even death as a result of influenza. That is why it is so important that they get immunized. Even when older adults contract the flu after immunization, which can happen, those cases tend to be less severe and of shorter duration," says Dr. Mark Lachs, director of geriatrics at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital.
"It is important that all children get immunized against this illness," says Dr. Gerald Loughlin, pediatrician-in-chief at the Phyllis and David Komansky Center for Children's Health at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center.
Dr. Lachs and Dr. Loughlin offer the following guidelines to help protect these most vulnerable populations from catching the flu this winter:
• Get vaccinated early. The flu vaccine is most effective when administered during the fall months, before the onset of flu season.
• It's never too late. The flu season begins in the fall and can last through the spring, so if you do not get vaccinated in October you can still be immunized in December or January.
• Know your options. A nasal vaccine is available for healthy children from age two and over, and for adults up to the age of 49. There are some restrictions so check with your doctor first.
• Get your family members vaccinated. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that the following groups get immunized against the flu every year:
o Children beginning at six months of age
o Pregnant women
o People 50 years of age and older
o People of any age with certain chronic medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and any form of immunosuppressive illness
o People who live in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities
o People who live with or care for those at high risk for complications from flu, including:
* Health care workers
* Household contacts of persons at high risk for complications from the flu
* Household contacts and out-of-home caregivers of children less than 6 months of age (these children are too young to be vaccinated)
Physicians and nurses at the Komansky Center for Children's Health at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell strongly urge parents to have their children immunized early to make sure they have optimal protection during December and January when flu epidemics are at their peak.
For more information, patients may call (866) NYP-NEWS.
NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, based in New York City, is the nation's largest not-for-profit, non-sectarian hospital, with 2,409 beds. The Hospital has nearly 2 million inpatient and outpatient visits in a year, including 12,797 deliveries and 195,294 visits to its emergency departments. NewYork-Presbyterian's 6,144 affiliated physicians and 19,376 staff provide state-of-the-art inpatient, ambulatory and preventive care in all areas of medicine at five major centers: NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center, NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center, NewYork-Presbyterian/Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital, NewYork-Presbyterian/The Allen Hospital and NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Westchester Division. One of the most comprehensive health care institutions in the world, the Hospital is committed to excellence in patient care, research, education and community service. NewYork-Presbyterian is the #1 hospital in the New York metropolitan area and is consistently ranked among the best academic medical institutions in the nation, according to U.S.News & World Report. The Hospital has academic affiliations with two of the nation's leading medical colleges: Weill Cornell Medical College and Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. For more information, visit www.nyp.org.
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