Should mesothelioma patients and their family members take the flu shot? This question was posed to a panel of mesothelioma experts at the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation’s regional conference held October 10, in Chicago. The panel all agreed that, yes, everyone should unless there was an overriding, rare, reason not to take the vaccination.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the flu shot for everyone over the age of six months. It is particularly recommended for high-risk individuals who are more prone to flu complications, such as pneumonia. The list includes: people age 65 years or older; women who will be pregnant during the flu season; people who live in nursing homes; anyone with chronic heart or lung conditions, including asthma, or with any condition that weakens the immune system, such as diabetes or HIV; caregivers; any person in close contact with someone in a high-risk group, such as health care workers and household contacts; children younger than age 5, but especially those younger than 2 years old.
The flu by definition is a contagious respiratory illness caused by the influenza virus. The best way to prevent the flu is by getting vaccinated every year. The flu can cause mild to severe illness. Some of the symptoms are fever, aches, chills, extreme tiredness, and lack of energy. These symptoms come on quickly. Other symptoms include headache, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, stomach symptoms such as nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, and chest discomfort.
Up to 20% of Americans get the flu each year. More than 200,000 people in the U.S. are hospitalized each year, and somewhere between 3,000 and 49,000 deaths are flu-related. According to the CDC, in the past flu seasons when the match between flu vaccine and circulatory strains of flu virus is close, a flu shot is 71% effective in reducing the flu-related hospitalizations among adults of all ages, and 77% percent effective among adults age 50 and older.
The evidence is in. Roll up your sleeves and get the flu shot! If you have had a reaction in the past to the flu shot, or have a severe egg allergy check with your doctor. If you are unsure call and ask, the benefits could be lifesaving. The flu in a mesothelioma patient who has had chemo, is a challenge that is best avoided!