With influenza season around the corner, it’s time for my annual update.

The key message is to get your flu vaccination. It’s good insurance, and an adequate supply of flu vaccine appears to be on tap this season.

A yearly vaccination is required because virus strains change fast. The current vaccine is based on these changes.

The CDC recommends that most high-risk individuals and people who might transmit the virus to them be vaccinated starting in October. Important updates to the priority list this season are prefaced by “(new)” below:

• (new) Children 6-59 months old (was 6-23 months old).

• (new) Children 6 months through 8 years old who have not had a previous flu vaccination should receive 2 doses, one dose followed by a booster dose later. These kids should be vaccinated early on (because of the time lapse required between the two doses). Children who were vaccinated for the first time last season, but did not receive a booster dose then, should receive only 1 dose this season.

• Children and adolescents 6 months to 18 years old who are receiving long-term aspirin therapy. (In this age group, aspirin increases the risk for Reye syndrome following a viral infection such as the flu.)

• Women who will be pregnant during the flu season.

• People 50 years or older.

• Children and adults with certain chronic disorders or diseases (check with your doctor).

• Residents of nursing homes and other chronic-care facilities who have chronic medical conditions, regardless of age.

• People who live with or care for individuals at high risk for flu-related complications, including healthy household contacts and caregivers of infants and children up to 5 years old. (Doing this reduces the risk of transmitting the flu to those in this vulnerable group.)

• Health-care workers.

• (new) Flu vaccine should be offered throughout the flu season, and community vaccination programs should offer at least one vaccination clinic in December.

The optimal time for most people to get vaccinated is October and November. If vaccine supplies are adequate, as expected, anyone who wants to can be vaccinated whenever they wish.

Who should not get a flu shot? Talk with your doctor if you:

• Are allergic to hen eggs (used in manufacturing the flu vaccine).

• Have had a severe reaction to the flu shot.

• Have previously developed Guillain-Barre syndrome shortly after getting a flu shot.

It should be emphasized that the flu shot vaccine is made with killed viruses and cannot cause the flu.

FluMist nasal spray is recommended as an alternative to the flu shot for healthy individuals 5 to 49 years old (except pregnant women).

An important reminder: Get a pneumonia shot if you’re due (ask your doctor). It helps prevent bacterial pneumonia, which claims more lives than the flu each year. It can be given at the same time as the flu shot.

Look for more important flu-related information in upcoming columns, including the thimerosal (mercury) content of this year’s flu vaccines.

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