The 2008 Putnam County Senior Health Fair is set for Tuesday, Oct. 7 at the Putnam County Fairgrounds Community Building from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. The annual event draws a large crowd of senior citizens every year.
Flu and pneumonia shots will be available from the Visiting Nurse Service. Individuals with Medicare Part B as their primary insurance must bring their card to get a shot at no cost. For others, the cost is $25 for flu shots and $40 for pneumonia shots.
Last year, about 132 million doses of flu vaccine were available, which is more than has ever been produced before. That should have been enough to give a flu vaccine to everyone who needed or wanted a one, and in fact, 27 million doses went unused.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved vaccines for the 2008-2009 flu season. These are designed to protect against strains of flu virus expected to be in circulation this fall and winter. Six manufacturers have begun shipping vaccine for this year's flu season.
Influenza is a viral infection that sickens millions of people each year and can cause serious complications, especially in children and older adults. Fortunately, the flu vaccine -- available in the form of a flu shot or a nasal spray -- offers protection against the flu.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), when the match between flu vaccine and the circulating strains of the virus is close, a flu shot is between 70 and 90 percent effective in warding off the illness in healthy people under the age of 65.
For older adults who don't live in nursing home and for people with chronic medical conditions, the vaccine is 30 to 70 percent effective in preventing hospitalization for flu or pneumonia.
Among nursing home residents, a flu sot is 50 to 60 percent effective in preventing hospitalization and pneumonia and 80 percent effective in preventing death from influenza.
In other words, people who get a flu shot can still get the flu, but they may get a much less severe form of the illness and they have a decreased risk of flu-related complications--especially pneumonia, heart attack, stroke and death, all things for which older adults are especially vulnerable.
There are some big changes to the flu recommendations this year. One of the biggest is the CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) that now recommends all children between the age of 5 and 18 years of age should get a flu vaccine. Previously, it was only recommend high risk older children receive the shot.
The ACIP also says that anyone can get a flu vaccine, even if they are not high risk and kids can get their vaccine at any time during the flu season, although it is best to get it as early in the season as possible. For more information about flu shots, contact your physician. For information about the 2008 Putnam County Senior Health Fair, contact Jim Stevens at the Putnam County Senior Center at 765-653-8606.