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Flu vaccinations recommended for nearly everyone

Seasonal flu vaccines such as this one being given last week, have been in short supply. More serum is anticipated to arrive, possibly this week. (Sarah Smith / Enterprise)

With autumn's arrival, and temperatures dropping, come thoughts of the flu, and temperatures rising.

Myra Haldorson, an RN who's the infection preventionist at St. Joseph's Area Health Services, is recommending everyone from ages 6 months and up be vaccinated for the flu.

This is the first time a universal flu vaccination is being advocated, unless an individual has a valid contraindication.

Vaccines help the body develop antibodies, Haldorson explained, reducing susceptibility to disease.

And this year, vaccine manufacturers are on course to produce more vaccine than any previous season - 160 to 165 million doses.

The seasonal flu vaccine is usually a trivalent, a three-component vaccine, with each selected to protect against an influenza virus circulating most commonly on an international level, she explained.

The viruses used in making seasonal flu vaccines are chosen each year based on information collected over the previous year about which influenza viruses are spreading, and what vaccine would provide the best protection against circulating viruses. Viruses collected by 130 national influenza centers in 101 countries are analyzed to make the determination.

Each country makes the decision, the Food and Drug Administration making the call in the U.S.

The 2010 vaccine provides protection against A/H1N1 (pandemic) influenza and two other viruses, AH3N2 and influenza B. It will not prevent illness caused by other viruses.

Why get vaccinated?

Coughing, sneezing or nasal secretions can spread influenza, a contagious disease.

Anyone can get the flu, but rates for infection are highest among children.

Fever, cough, sore throat, headache, chills, muscle aches and fatigue are the symptoms, for most, lasting just a few days.

Infants, the elderly, pregnant women and people with certain health conditions can get sicker. It can make existing medical conditions worse and can cause diarrhea and seizures in children.

There are two types of vaccine.

Live, attenuated influenza vaccine (LAIV) contains a live but weakened flu virus. It is sprayed into the nostrils. This is recommended for people age 2 through 49 who are not pregnant and do not have certain health conditions

The inactivated flu vaccine, given by injection into the muscle, is recommended for adults 50 years and older and children from 6 through 23 months. Pregnant women and people with long-term health problems are also candidates.

Time is now

The Centers for Disease control and Prevention recommend getting the vaccine as soon as it becomes available, which is now. Average cost for vaccination is $28, with Medicare and some insurance covering the cost.

The immunizations are available at a variety of locations, including stores, pharmacies, Innovis Health Clinic, public health clinics and schools.

"Flu activity has been minimal so far," Haldorson said. "But there is no reason to delay. It takes two weeks to develop the antibodies, then it's good for a year."

Minnesota led the nation last year in H1N1 vaccine coverage. In the Park Rapids area, there were two confirmed cases of H1N1, who were hospitalized. Several were seen in the emergency room, but no deaths were attributed to influenza, Haldorson said.

Last year was unusual with two disease strains; H1N1 Novel had not been seen before, she said.

The H1N1 season began early and peaked in October. The H1N1 virus predominated in 2009.

For more information, head to the Minnesota Department of Health website,