Published on 09/23/98

People with Diabetes Especially Need Flu Shots

With flu season just around the corner, a flu shot is an excellent preventive measure, especially if you have diabetes.

p>"People with diabetes are about three times more likely to die from influenza (flu) than those without it," said Connie Crawley, an Extension Service nutrition and health specialist with the University of Georgia College of Family and Consumer Sciences.

Crawley said 80 percent of flu-related deaths could be prevented by a simple trip to the doctor or health department for a flu shot.

Flu season generally runs from November through March. As a rule, the flu virus causes a respiratory illness. Symptoms include fever, muscle soreness, sore throat and a nonproductive cough.

Preventive flu shots are widely available. But only 40 percent of adults with diabetes are reported to get their flu shots. Death rates among those with diabetes climb 5 to 15 percent during flu epidemics.

Crawley said many people view flu shots in a negative light due to misinformation.

"The flu vaccine can't give you the flu," she said. "It doesn't contain a live virus. If you catch a cold a week or so after your flu shot, it's just a coincidence. The flu is not a cold."

Besides people with diabetes, pregnant women, residents of nursing homes and chronic-care facilities and those with underlying health problems are more susceptible to the flu.

Family members of people with diabetes can doubly benefit from a flu shot. They can protect themselves as well as avoid passing the virus on to their more susceptible loved one.

The flu shot will lower your chances of catching the flu. But it's not 100 percent foolproof.

"If you catch the flu after getting your flu shot, you will likely have a milder case," Crawley said. "The vaccine can still reduce the risk of hospitalization and death."

Flu viruses vary from year to year. So you have to be immunized each year. Some people aren't candidates for immunization, so see your doctor before getting this or any immunization.

The doctor may also recommend getting the vaccine for pneumonia, since diabetes increases the risk of complications from this infection as well.

Sharon Omahen is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.