News and Tribune

November 5, 2012

CALLAWAY: Give me a shot

By JULIE CALLAWAY
jlcallaway@ymcasi.org

> SOUTHERN INDIANA — The flu, shingles and pneumonia are all illnesses that you do not want to get at any time in your life, but as you get older you become more susceptible. In order to prevent them, make sure you get your shots.

Influenza, a.k.a. the flu, is a very contagious viral infection of the nose, throat and lungs. It can spread from person to person from a cough or a sneeze. Influenza can actually become so severe that it can lead to hospitalization or even death. It is estimated that 226,000 people are hospitalized each year and 36,000 die, mostly the elderly. The best thing to do is to get the flu vaccine each year. There are actually four different flu vaccines available, according to the CDC, so be sure to talk to your doctor about which one would be correct for you.

Pneumonia is an infection of the lungs that can be caused by the bacteria called pneumococcus. Pneumonia is usually a complication of influenza and typically more deaths occur from pneumonia than the flu. It kills about one out of every 20 people who come down with the disease. To help prevent pneumonia, the CDC suggests one to two doses from the ages of 19-64 and then another dose of the Pneumococcal vaccine after the age of 65.

Shingles is caused by the vanicella zoster virus, the same virus that causes chickenpox. If you had the chickenpox when you were younger, the virus actually stays dormant in the body and for some unknown reason the virus can actually reactivate years later and cause shingles. Shingles is a painful rash that will form blisters and then scab over in seven to 10 days. It usually clears up within two to four weeks. About half of all cases occur among men and women 60 years old or older. The CDC recommends one dose of the Zoster vaccine after the age of 60.

I gathered this information from the CDC website because I think it is so important to focus on prevention, and if this article encourages one person to go get those shots then I've done what I set out to do: educate. If you have questions about what vaccines/immunizations you may need, then I would suggest you speak to your doctor. You can also call the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) at 1-800-CDC-INFO or visit their website at http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines. I found the site very informative.