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FOR RELEASE: October 30, 2003
CONTACT: Pamela Williams
Office of Communications
405/271-5601

Influenza Shots Recommended for Persons with Diabetes
November is American Diabetes Month

Influenza (flu) season is here, and it is important to find out the facts about influenza and pneumococcal vaccinations, especially if you have diabetes. If you have diabetes, these shots could save your life, say officials at the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH).

Every year about 60,000 people in the United States die from pneumonia caused by infections with the influenza virus or pneumococcal bacteria. According to hospital discharge data for the year 2000, more than 2,300 Oklahomans with diabetes were hospitalized for the treatment of one of those diseases that year. Even though getting vaccinated can help save lives, health officials say that many people are afraid to get the shots.

“People need to understand that the influenza vaccine will NOT give you the “flu” and the pneumococcal pneumonia shot will NOT give you pneumonia,” said Adeline Yerkes, chief, Chronic Disease Service. “These vaccinations are important for everyone, but especially important for persons with diabetes because they are three times more likely to die from complications of these diseases than people who do not have diabetes.”

The “flu season” is generally from November to March each year, but this year, the first cases of influenza in Oklahoma were already confirmed in October. Because the influenza virus changes frequently, it is necessary to get a new shot each year.

A single dose of the pneumococcal vaccine is also recommended for most people aged 65 or older. This vaccine will provide protection against illness caused by Streptococcus pneumoniae.

Besides pneumonia, the pneumococcal vaccine protects against other types of infections caused by the same bacteria, such as meningitis and blood stream infections. Some people who were younger than 65 when they received this vaccine may need a booster dose after five years.

People at an increased risk for getting influenza and/or pneumococcal disease are:

  • persons with diabetes,
  • anyone 65 years of age or older,
  • residents of long-term care facilities that house people with chronic medical conditions,
  • anyone with a compromised immune system, and
  • women who will be past the third month of pregnancy during influenza season.

Health officials urge people with diabetes to protect themselves against influenza and pneumococcal pneumonia by getting these vaccinations through their health care provider or at local county health departments across the state. Talk to your doctor before getting an influenza shot or any other type of vaccination.

For more information, contact the OSDH Diabetes Prevention and Control Program at 1-888-669-5934, your health care provider, or your county health department.

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