Friday, December 01, 2006

Seasonal flu shots no protection for bird flu

With all the talk about the importance of getting your seasonal flu shot, you may be wondering whether there is a vaccination that you can get that will protect you from bird flu or a flu pandemic.

Unfortunately, the answer is no. Right now, there is no vaccine to protect us from H5N1, the bird flu virus that is proving deadly to birds and some humans around the world, or from a future flu pandemic.

The seasonal flu shot we receive every year is made to protect us from the common types of flu that are being passed around in the United States and around the globe. But because H5N1 is a new type of flu, the seasonal flu shot does not contain the ingredients necessary to protect us from it.

That doesn't mean of course, that you should forgo your seasonal flu shot. With 36,000 people each year dying of seasonal flu in the United States, and more than 200,000 hospitalized for flu complications, it is important that you get vaccinated, especially if you are elderly or in a high-risk group. Ditto if you are a health worker. Still haven't gotten your seasonal flu shot? Now is the perfect time, as it's National Influenza Vaccination Week. So what are you waiting for?

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