Flu Shots Vital for Heart Patients

Flu season is right around the corner, so now's the time to roll up your sleeve for a flu vaccination.

Getting vaccinated against influenza protects people from more than just a nuisance. Each year, it puts 200,000 people in the hospital in the U.S.

Cotton-O'Neil cardiologist Pat Birkbeck says influenza attacks a person's whole system, which is especially troubling for people with chronic conditions, like heart disease. He says people with such conditions don't have the reserves to fight off the infection, much less the problems that can result from it.

Those complications can include pneumonia or even a heart attack. Dr. Birkbeck says there are a couple theories as to why a heart attack may result. He says one idea is that it's simply the stress flu puts on the body, while another is that it has to do with a flare up in the body's inflammatory.

Dr. Birkbeck says a flu shot is a person's best defense against the flu, but he says studies show only a third of people with heart disease actually get one. He says it needs to become part of the total health care package. He says, just like lowering blood pressure and cholesterol and quitting smoking, a flu shot is an integral part of prevention.

Flu Shot Clinics
Cotton-O'Neil patients can get their flu vaccinations at clinics starting Tuesday, Oct. 23

Drive-thru clinic
8:30 am to 3 pm
Tuesdays thru Thursdays
Oct. 23 thru Nov. 1
Parking garage under the Stormont-Vail Surgical Suites
Enter off Garfield between 9th and 10th

Walk-in clinic
8:30 am to 4 pm
Tuesdays thru Thursdays
Oct. 23 thru Nov. 21st
Cotton O'Neil Heart Center
929 Mulvane

Who should be vaccinated?
(from the Centers for Disease Control)
People 6 months of age and older can receive inactivated influenza vaccine. It is recommended for anyone who is at risk of complications from influenza or more likely to require medical care:
• All children from 6 months up to 5 years of age.
• Anyone 50 years of age or older.
• Anyone 6 months to 18 years of age on long-term aspirin treatment (they could develop Reye Syndrome if they got influenza).
•Women who will be pregnant during influenza season.
• Anyone with long-term health problems with:
- heart disease - kidney disease - lung disease - metabolic disease, such as diabetes - asthma - anemia, and other blood disorders
• Anyone with a weakened immune system due to:
- HIV/AIDS or other diseases affecting the immune system
- long-term treatment with drugs such as steroids
- cancer treatment with x-rays or drugs
• Anyone with certain muscle or nerve disorders (such as seizure disorders or severe cerebral palsy) that can lead to breathing or swallowing problems.
• Residents of nursing homes and other chronic-care facilities.
Influenza vaccine is also recommended for anyone who
lives with or cares for people at high risk for influenzarelated
• Health care providers.
• Household contacts and caregivers of children from birth up to 5 years of age.
• Household contacts and caregivers of people 50 years and older, and those with medical conditions that put them at higher risk for severe complications from influenza.
A yearly influenza vaccination should be considered for:
• People who provide essential community services.
• People living in dormitories or under other crowded conditions, to prevent outbreaks.
• People at high risk of influenza complications who travel to the Southern hemisphere between April and September, or to the tropics or in organized tourist groups at any time.

Influenza vaccine is also recommended for anyone who wants
to reduce the likelihood of becoming ill with influenza or spreading influenza to others.

Preventing the Flu
The Centers for Disease Control has information on good health habits to prevent the spread of flu at .

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