October 10, 2006
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Contact: Kaylyn Dines
National Organization, UMDNJ Immunologist Recommend Flu Vaccine
for People with Chronic Medical Illnesses
NEWARK— Did you know the flu vaccine could help prevent hospitalizations and emergency room visits in children who have asthma and individuals who have other chronic health conditions?
With the flu season nearby, the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI) and a nationally recognized allergy and immunology expert at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey are recommending that people with asthma and other chronic health conditions receive a flu vaccination as soon as possible.
Research has found that the flu vaccine decreases the risk of asthma exacerbations in patients by as much as 22 percent to 41 percent. In addition, it can also protect against acute asthma exacerbations in children. Vaccinating all children with asthma can prevent up to 78 percent of asthma hospitalizations and emergency room visits during influenza seasons.
The flu season usually ranges from November through March, and peaks in December, January and February. It takes approximately two weeks to develop immunity from the vaccine so it is important to get vaccinated each fall in October or November, before the flu season begins.
“The key message is simply be prepared,” said Dr. Leonard Bielory, director of the Department of Medicine, Division of Allergy and Immunology at the UMDNJ-New Jersey Medical School. “Now is the time to get vaccinated. We especially encourage individuals with heart, lung and respiratory illnesses to take preventive measures to avoid the flu. Be proactive, rather than reactive. Get a flu vaccination.”
Each year, millions of people in the United States get influenza. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 36,000 people per year in the United States die from influenza, and over 200,000 people have to be admitted to the hospital as a result of the flu.
“Symptoms of influenza can be especially severe for patients with respiratory diseases, such as asthma,” said Richard A. Nicklas, MD, FAAAAI, Chair of the AAAAI’s Asthma Diagnosis and Treatment Interest Section. “In severe cases, influenza can cause pneumonia, may require hospitalization and sometimes can be fatal.”
Influenza is typically spread from person to person through coughing and sneezing via respiratory droplets. If someone with the flu coughs on you, there is a high chance you will develop flu symptoms within four days after the initial exposure to that person. Common flu symptoms include:
- Fever (usually high).
- Muscle aches and tenderness.
- Fatigue (extreme).
- Dry cough.
- Sore throat.
- Runny or stuffy nose.
- Stomach symptoms such as nausea, vomiting and diarrhea can occur, but are most common in children.
“Contrary to popular belief, you cannot get the flu from the flu vaccine. If you feel sick with flu-like symptoms after being vaccinated, you may have caught another respiratory virus or already had the flu virus in your system when you received the
vaccine” said Dr. Bielory.
Discuss any questions that you may have regarding influenza or the flu vaccine with your physician. For more information, visit the AAAAI Web site, www.aaaai.org, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Web site, www.cdc.gov/nip/flu, or call the CDC Immunization Hot Line at (800) 232-2522.
To arrange an interview with Dr. Bielory, call Kaylyn Dines at 973-972-5000.
UMDNJ is the nation’s largest free-standing public health sciences university with more than 5,500 students attending the state's three medical schools, its only dental school, a graduate school of biomedical sciences, a school of health related professions, a school of nursing and a school of public health on five campuses. Annually, there are more than two million patient visits at UMDNJ facilities and faculty practices at campuses in Newark, New Brunswick/Piscataway, Scotch Plains, Camden and Stratford. UMDNJ operates University Hospital, a Level I Trauma Center in Newark, and University Behavioral HealthCare, a statewide mental health and addiction services network.