Patient Stories: Flu Protection

The following patient stories appear below courtesy of the American Lung Association’s “Faces of Influenza” website. Both the Pennsylvania Medical Society and the ALA of Pennsylvania are working to educate the public about the importance of receiving a flu shot this year—and every year.

Jean Miller: Over 65, Retiree with Active Lifestyle

Jean Miller is over age 65. In fact, she’s way over 65. Jean is extremely thankful for a very busy retirement blessed with good health.

Jean gets immunized against influenza every year. She knows at her age, influenza can be life threatening. Complications from influenza infection most often occur among persons 65 years of age and older.

While no vaccine gives complete protection, studies show influenza immunization reduces hospitalization for pneumonia and influenza between 30 and 70 percent among older people who are not in nursing homes. The cost of vaccination for a person 65-plus is covered by Medicare. Many private health insurance plans also pay for influenza immunization.

Immunization is also important for caregivers or people who live with someone 65 years of age and older. This includes all health-care workers, household contacts and out-of-home caregivers for all persons in this age group.

“Taking care of my health is a big priority. I’ve seen what complications from influenza can do to someone my age, even someone as healthy as I am, so I get immunized, because I’m not going to take any chances.”

Lourdes “Lori” Diaz: Clinical Nurse Supervisor

Lourdes Diaz knew the importance of being vaccinated against influenza—she’s worked in health-care for over 15 years. But in 1994, when she was working as a per diem nurse, she got busy and did not have the time to get immunized.

She got influenza and had to miss nearly a week’s work. “That was lost income,” said Lori. “At the time, I was not paid sick days, and the lost income made a big difference.” Lori, now a Clinical Nurse Supervisor, oversees the Bureau of Chest Disease/Tuberculosis Unit of the Suffolk County Department of Health in New York.

“It took me a full three weeks to recover. For the sake of the minimal time it takes to get vaccinated, I could have avoided all of that.”

Studies show influenza immunization can prevent influenza in the workplace, helping to reduce sick leave and missed work days. And in Lori’s case, health-care workers should be immunized to also protect patients in their care.

Lori urges influenza vaccination as a priority for all working families. “It’s imperative because influenza impacts every aspect of your life. My husband worked very long hours, and even though I was very sick with influenza, I still had to take care of the home and the kids, which delayed my recovery and put my family at risk of getting the disease from me. Our employers and our families need us to stay well. We’re all busy and most of us can’t afford to lose money or our strength.”

Brandon Williams and Dimitri Aston: Brothers Living with Asthma Brandon, 11, and Dimitri, 6, have asthma. Their mother Lakisha says this chronic respiratory condition is a looming threat for her sons, but never more than during influenza season.

Lakisha has learned this the hard way. “As a parent, I’m really scared. Asthma can kill a child. When Dimitri and Brandon got influenza, their asthma got much worse.”

For children with asthma who haven’t been vaccinated, influenza can worsen symptoms of asthma like wheezing, and make breathing even more difficult.

Rates of influenza are highest among children. Asthmatic children, in particular, face increased risks from influenza infections, yet approximately 70 percent are not immunized and go unprotected each year. These children are 5 times more likely than healthy children of the same age to be hospitalized with influenza-related illnesses.

Lakisha is amazed at how many parents fail to immunize their children.

“I recently had a friend—who has three kids with asthma—who said the influenza vaccine was just for older people. Everyone needs to know how important the vaccine is for children and to get their kids vaccinated, whether they have asthma or not.”

Sources

  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Prevention and Control of Influenza: recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP). MMWR. 2006;55(RR-10):1-43.
  • Tuffaha A, Gern JE, Lemanske RF Jr. The role of respiratory viruses in acute and chronic asthma. Clin Chest Med. 2000;21(2):289-300.
  • Johnston SL, Pattemore PK, Sanderson G, et al. Community study of role of viral infections in exacerbations of asthma in 9-11 year old children. BMJ. 1995;310(6989):1225-1229.
  • Rakes GP, Arruda E, Ingram JM, et al. Rhinovirus and respiratory syncytial virus in wheezing children requiring emergency care. IgE and eosinophil analyses. Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 1999;159(3):785-790.

All stories used with the permission of the American Lung Association.