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The Flu Season is Here: Roll Up Your Sleeve for a Cancer Survivor

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Cancer related image Photo: Getty Images

It’s that time of year again to roll up your sleeve to prevent influenza.

Influenza (the flu) is a number different viruses that can cause very serious illness, especially if you have ever had cancer.

Cancer survivors are at a higher risk for complications from the flu that could result in hospitalization and death, even if you are now cancer free.

According to the most recent consumer snapshot survey by interclick, a technology data research group, a 42 percent of Americans plan to be immunized this year, nearly half of women and 40 percent of men.

Not surprisingly, Americans who identify themselves as not getting sick often or those who have never had the flu say they are less likely to receive the shot, according to the survey.

Each year, the human and economic toll caused by flu infection is alarming. On average 200,000 people are hospitalized for influenza and as many as 49,000 die from complications. The flu is not the sniffles. Its symptoms include fever, body aches, chills, vomiting, tiredness, and a cough that can last for weeks.

In 2010, the flu led to 100 million lost workdays, nearly $7 billion in lost wages and 32 million missed school days, according to the latest Walgreens Flu Impact Report.

Here are a few things cancer survivors — and people who live or care for survivors — need to know to protect them during the 2011-12 flu season.

The Center of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports the 2011-12 season will likely peak in January or February although the timing of seasonal flu is very unpredictable year to year. Seasonal flu activity can begin as early as October and continue to occur as late as May.

People with cancer or a history of cancer should receive the seasonal flu shot, not the nasal spray vaccine, which is approved for healthy individuals, ages 2-49, who are not pregnant.

People who live with or care for cancer patients and survivors should also be vaccinated against seasonal flu. Additionally, CDC recommends that everyone aged six months and older get a flu vaccine for the current flu season. This lessens their chance of illness, and lowers the risk they will bring the flu home to you.

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.