Influenza is a potentially serious disease that can lead to hospitalization and sometimes even death. Every flu season is different, and influenza infection can affect people differently, but millions of people get flu every year, hundreds of thousands of people are hospitalized and thousands to tens of thousands of people die from flu-related causes every year. An annual seasonal flu vaccine is the best way to help protect against flu. Vaccination has been shown to have many benefits including reducing the risk of flu illnesses, hospitalizations and even the risk of flu-related death in children.
The flu vaccine causes antibodies to develop in your body about two weeks after you get it. These antibodies provide protection against infection with the viruses that are in the vaccine.
Are any of the available flu vaccines recommended over others?
For the 2020-2021 flu season, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommends annual influenza (flu) vaccination for everyone 6 months and older with any licensed, influenza vaccine that is appropriate for the recipient’s age and health status, including inactivated influenza vaccine (IIV), recombinant influenza vaccine (RIV), or live attenuated nasal spray influenza vaccine (LAIV4) with no preference expressed for any one vaccine over another.
There are many vaccine options to choose from, but the most important thing is for all people 6 months and older to get a flu vaccine every year. If you have questions about which vaccine is best for you, talk to your doctor or other health care professional.
Who Should Not Be Vaccinated?
Different influenza (flu) vaccines are approved for use in different age groups. In addition, some vaccines are not recommended for certain groups of people. Factors that can determine a person’s suitability for vaccination, or vaccination with a particular vaccine, include a person’s age, health (current and past) and any allergies to flu vaccine or its components. For more information, visit Who Should and Who Should NOT get a Flu Vaccine.
Can a flu vaccine give you flu?
No, flu vaccines cannot cause flu illness. Flu vaccines given with a needle (i.e., flu shots) are made with either inactivated (killed) viruses, or with only a single protein from the flu virus. The nasal spray vaccine contains live viruses that are attenuated (weakened) so that they will not cause illness.
Is it better to get sick with flu than to get a flu vaccine?
No. Flu can be a serious disease, particularly among young children, older adults, and people with certain chronic health conditions, such as asthma, heart disease or diabetes. Any flu infection can carry a risk of serious complications, hospitalization or death, even among otherwise healthy children and adults. Therefore, getting vaccinated is a safer choice than risking illness to obtain immune protection.
Do I really need a flu vaccine every year?
Yes. CDC recommends a yearly flu vaccine for everyone 6 months of age and older with rare exception. The reason for this is that a person’s immune protection from vaccination declines over time, so an annual vaccination is needed to get the “optimal” or best protection against the flu. Additionally, flu viruses are constantly changing, so the vaccine composition is reviewed each year and updated as needed based on which influenza viruses are making people sick.
With the holiday season approaching, many people will be traveling or attending gatherings with friends and family. Travel increases your chance of getting and spreading COVID-19. Staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others from COVID-19. If you must travel, the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) has tips on ways to reduce your risk:
Travel during the COVID-19 Pandemic
Travel may increase your chance of getting and spreading COVID-19. Find out what to consider before, during, and after travel on the CDC’s Travel during the COVID-19 pandemic web page. If you travel, take steps to protect yourself and others from COVID-19 during your trip. Wear a mask, stay 6 feet from others, and wash your hands.
Attending an Event or Gathering
If you’re attending an event or gathering, prepare before you go by checking with the organizer or event venue for updated information about any COVID-19 safety guidelines and if they have steps in place to prevent the spread of the virus. Use social distancing and limit physical contact, wear masks, and limit contact with frequently touched surfaces.
Hosting Gatherings or Cook-outs
Help prevent the spread of COVID-19 when hosting gatherings or cook-outs. Remind guests to stay home if they’re sick, host gatherings outdoors if possible, arrange chairs to allow for social distancing, and don’t shake hands, give hugs, or do elbow bumps.
Visiting Parks and Recreational Facilities
Protect yourself and others from COVID-19 when visiting parks and recreational facilities. Visit areas that are close to your home, avoid crowded parks or campgrounds, stay at least 6 feet away from people you don’t live with, wear a mask, and wash your hands often.
The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) recommends that you wear masks in public settings around people who don’t live in your household and when you can’t stay 6 feet away from others. Masks help stop the spread of COVID-19 to others.
- Wear masks with two or more layers to stop the spread of COVID-19
- Wear the mask over your nose and mouth and secure it under your chin
- Masks should be worn by people two years and older
- Masks should NOT be worn by children younger than two, people who have trouble breathing, or people who cannot remove the mask without assistance
- Do NOT wear masks intended for healthcare workers, for example, N95 respirators
Click here to see the CDC’s full recommendations on selecting, wearing, and cleaning masks.
Since 1980, the Healthy People initiative has set goals and measurable objectives to improve health and well-being in the United States. The initiative’s fifth edition, Healthy People 2030, builds on knowledge gained over the past 4 decades to address current and emerging public health priorities and challenges.
An interdisciplinary team of subject matter experts developed national health objectives and targets for the next 10 years. These objectives focus on the most high-impact public health issues, and reflect an increased focus on the social determinants of health — how the conditions where people live, work, and play affect their health and well-being.
By using Healthy People 2030 in your work, you can help improve health nationwide! Objectives are organized into intuitive topics so you can easily find data that’s relevant to your work. And Healthy People 2030 provides evidence-based resources and tools you can use to set strategies for reaching Healthy People targets in your community, state, or organization. Start exploring Healthy People 2030 today!
The following is excerpted from “NIH News in Health”, a monthly newsletter from the National Institutes of Health.
Coping with emergencies is challenging in the best of situations. During the coronavirus pandemic, many of us are just trying to get by each day. For people with chronic (long-term) health conditions—like diabetes and chronic kidney disease—the challenges can be even greater. But with planning, you can prepare what you’ll need to make things more manageable.
“Thankfully, people with chronic medical conditions have tools to help maintain their health, even during difficult times,” says Dr. Griffin P. Rodgers, director of NIH’s National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Managing these conditions well can help lower your risk for complications and other diseases.
Preparing for the unexpected will help you manage a chronic health condition during a crisis. Consider packing a specialized “go-kit” for emergencies. A “go-kit” should contain:
- At least one week’s worth of medical supplies and equipment.
- Contact information for health care providers and emergency contacts.
- A medication list with doses and dosing schedules.
- A list of your allergies.
- Information about any medical devices you use.
- At least a three-day supply of any foods needed to manage your condition.
- Copies of your insurance card and photo ID.
- Copies of recent lab work you might need.
Maintaining your health doesn’t erase the risk for getting other diseases. But each healthy day is a day closer to better treatments for diseases. NIH is making a coordinated effort to help advance research on preventing, diagnosing, and treating COVID-19.
Contact your health care provider with any questions or concerns about how to prepare for natural disasters and emergencies.
Click here to read the full article from the August 2020 issue of NIH News in Health.
View the webinar featuring Dr. Tiep here: COPD and the Benefits of Pulmonary Rehabilitation
The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) offers the following recommendations on how to prepare for your next check-up:
Getting check-ups is one of many things you can do to help stay healthy and prevent disease and disability.
You’ve made the appointment to see your health care provider. You’ve reviewed the instructions on how to prepare for certain tests. You’ve done the usual paperwork. Done, right? Not quite.
Before your next check-up, make sure you do these four things.
Review your family health history.
Are there any new conditions or diseases that have occurred in your close relatives since your last visit? If so, let your health care provider know. Family history might influence your risk of developing heart disease, stroke, diabetes, or cancer. Your provider will assess your risk of disease based on your family history and other factors. Your provider may also recommend things you can do to help prevent disease, such as exercising more, changing your diet, or using screening tests to help detect disease early.
Find out if you are due for any general screenings or vaccinations.
Have you had the recommended screening tests based on your age, general health, family history, and lifestyle? Check with your health care provider to see if its time for any vaccinations, follow-up exams, or tests. For example, it might be time for you to get a Pap test, mammogram, prostate cancer screening, colon cancer screening, sexually transmitted disease screening, blood pressure check, tetanus shot, eye check, or other screening.
Write down a list of issues and questions to take with you.
Review any existing health problems and note any changes.
- Have you noticed any body changes, including lumps or skin changes?
- Are you having pain, dizziness, fatigue, problems with urine or stool, or menstrual cycle changes?
- Have your eating habits changed?
- Are you experiencing depression, anxiety, trauma, distress, or sleeping problems?
If so, note when the change began, how it’s different from before, and any other observation that you think might be helpful.
Be honest with your provider. If you haven’t been taking your medication as directed, exercising as much, or anything else, say so. You may be at risk for certain diseases and conditions because of how you live, work, and play. Your provider develops a plan based partly on what you say you do. Help ensure that you get the best guidance by providing the most up-to-date and accurate information about you.
Be sure to write your questions down beforehand. Once you’re in the office or exam room, it can be hard to remember everything you want to know. Leave room between questions to write down your provider’s answers.
Consider your future.
Are there specific health issues that need addressing concerning your future? Are you thinking about having infertility treatment, losing weight, taking a hazardous job, or quitting smoking? Discuss any issues with your provider so that you can make better decisions regarding your health and safety.
For more information on the importance of check-ups, click here: https://www.cdc.gov/family/checkup/index.htm
Having a plan for when disaster strikes is good advice for everyone, but the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) suggests that it is particularly important for those with chronic illness. The CDC offers advice on how to prepare. Recommendations include:
- Make an emergency plan and emergency kit. Keep at least three days supply of food, water, and medicine on hand.
- If you need to leave your home, know where to go (e.g., family members house, shelter) and be prepared to leave quickly. Have medicines, medical records, insurance information, and healthcare provider’s information, with you.
- Ask your doctor for an extra supply of prescribed medicines, and have a list of all prescription medicines (including name, dose, and pharmacy information). If staying in a shelter or temporary housing, tell the staff about your health problems, special needs and any medicines you are taking.
- Keep medicines, supplies, and equipment out of the heat and in a safe and waterproof location. If you use medical equipment that works with electricity, learn How to Prepare and Handle Power Outages.
- Check if the Emergency Prescription Assistance Program (EPAP) is activated after a disaster. This free service helps residents get medicine, medical supplies, medical equipment and vaccines that were lost, stolen, or damaged due to the disaster. Call 855-793-7470 to enroll or visit the EPAP website. Check RX Open to find open pharmacies.
Click here to see the full list of CDC recommendations.
If you were unable to join the US COPD Coalition live for our webinar, Coping with Stress in Diffiicult Times, you can watch it in its entirety by clicking on the link below. We were pleased to have as our featured speaker Arpi Minassian, Ph.D. Dr. Minassian discussed stress and where it comes from, as well has how to recognize signs of stress and anxiety. She also discussed tips for how to cope with emotional distress related to chronic medical conditions as well as the difficult times we are all facing.
We encourage you to view the webinar, and share it with anyone you feel would benefit from the very useful information that Dr. Minassian shared.
View the webinar featuring Dr. Minassian here: Coping with Stress in Difficult Times
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has provided a web page with answers to frequently asked questions about indoor air and COVID-19. Below are links to the specific questions that are answered.