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“Autumn is coming, do I really need the flu vaccine?”

The flu is an infection of the respiratory tract caused by various strains of the influenza virus. Characterized by a sudden onset of various symptoms including muscle pain, sore throat, cough, fever, it is easily transmitted by an infected person through tiny droplets in the air or on their hands.

Two measures can reduce the impact of influenza: the vaccine (for prevention) or the therapy with influenza-specific antiviral drugs (if infection or contact occurs). Flu vaccine’s composition changes yearly, and usually contains several selected killed strains of the virus. Receiving the vaccine reduces the likelihood of an infection and lessens the severity of the disease if an infection occurs. In specific high-risk individuals, catching the flu can have serious, life-threatening implications.

Different countries have adopted specific immunization recommendations. Commonly, it is suggested that the following people be vaccinated:

- Adult and children with chronic conditions

- People who reside in nursing homes or chronic care facilities

- Health care workers and some child care workers

- Household contacts of these high-risk groups

- Pregnant patient that will deliver during flu season

- Age specific groups such as over 65 or children between 6 and 23 months

- Any healthy person age 2 to 64 years should be encouraged to receive the vaccine

The vaccine is available from October. The dosage varies with the age and also with the previous status of immunization. Check with your physician soon as supplies are often limited.

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Catherine Meunier is a family medicine physician and genetic counsellor who was trained in Montreal, Canada. Her areas of particular interest are pediatrics and women’s health. She is the mother of a 5 year old son and a 2 1/2 year old daughter and has been living in Tokyo for the last 9 months.

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