Stronger seasonal flu vaccine for elderly

Dec. 30, 2012 at 10:15 AM

WASHINGTON, Dec. 30 (UPI) -- A vaccine that induces a stronger immune response for those age 65 and older is intended to better protect the elderly against influenza, U.S. officials say.

Officials of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said Fluzone High-Dose was developed because the immune system typically becomes weaker with age, leaving people at increased risk of seasonal flu-related complications which may lead to hospitalization and death in the elderly.

In the Northern Hemisphere, this is prime time for colds, influenza and other respiratory illnesses and although symptoms of colds and flu can be similar, the two are different, officials said.

Colds are usually distinguished by a stuffy or runny nose and sneezing. Other symptoms include coughing, a scratchy throat, and watery eyes. No vaccine against colds exists because they can be caused by many types of viruses. Colds spread via contact with mucus -- coughing and sneezing -- but colds come on gradually.

Flu comes on suddenly, is more serious, and lasts longer than colds, but an annual vaccination can help protect from influenza. Flu symptoms include fever, headache, chills, dry cough, body aches, fatigue and general misery. Like colds, flu can cause a stuffy or runny nose, sneezing, and watery eyes, but young children might also experience nausea and vomiting with the flu.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta said more than 200,000 people in the United States are hospitalized from flu-related complications each year, including 20,000 children age 5 and younger.

From 1976 to 2006, the estimated number of flu-related deaths every year ranged from about 3,000 to about 49,000.

A new flu shot is needed every year because the predominant flu viruses may change every year and all people age 6 months and older should be vaccinated.

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