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FOR RELEASE: January 6, 2000
CONTACT: Dick Gunn
405/271-5601

Flu and Pneumonia Deadly for People with Diabetes

Oklahomans aged 25 to 64 who have diabetes are four times more likely to die with influenza and pneumonia than those who don't have the disease, researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report. In spite of those odds, less than half the people in this age group get an annual flu shot and even fewer get a pneumococcal vaccination.

Influenza and pneumonia rank sixth among the top ten leading causes of death in Oklahoma in 1999. Regardless of race, sex, or socioeconomic status, people with diabetes seem to be at greater risk of complications from these diseases, which ultimately may contribute to their death.

"These findings are particularly significant since safe and cost-effective vaccines against both flu and pneumonia are available," said State Health Commissioner J.R. Nida, M.D. He said it is not too late to receive the vaccine, although it does take up to two weeks to become effective. Persons who are interested should contact their private provider or local health department. "Other nontraditional providers, such as pharmacies and home health care agencies, may also be available to administer shots," Nida added.

In 1995, pneumonia was the second leading cause of hospitalization in Oklahoma and was responsible for 16,895 hospital admissions (4.8% of all admissions). In 1999, approximately 1,304 persons in Oklahoma died from pneumonia and influenza. These numbers could be reduced if Oklahomans with diabetes and other chronic diseases get an annual flu and a pneumococcal vaccination.

Because flu season is such a critical time for people with diabetes, especially those aged 25 to 64 who are less likely to get vaccinated, the Oklahoma State Department of Health's Chronic Disease Service has joined CDC in its campaign to encourage this group to get vaccinated for flu and pneumonia. It is not too late to get a flu shot (flu season normally occurs October through March), and a pneumonia shot once in their lifetime. "You should, however, check with your doctor or health care provider before getting these or any other vaccinations," Nida said.

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