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If you have cancer now or have had it in the past, you are at higher risk for complications from the seasonal flu or the 2009 H1N1 flu, including hospitalization or death. Here is important information you should know as you head into the new flu season.
Q. For the first time, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is recommending flu vaccination for all Americans over the age of 6 months. Why the change?
A. Flu vaccination was already recommended for 85 percent of the U.S. population, but the CDC expanded it to almost everyone based on evidence that the vaccine can benefit people of all ages. CDC spokesperson Tom Skinner says health officials are concerned that the 2009 H1N1 virus could continue circulating during this flu season— along with two new seasonal flu viruses— and a substantial proportion of young adults might remain susceptible to infection. The new vaccine, available now, will protect against all three main viruses expected this flu season.
Q. Are cancer patients and survivors more likely to get the flu than others?
A. According to the CDC, it is not certain that cancer patients and survivors are more prone to contracting infection with either the 2009 H1N1 or seasonal flu. Rather, cancer patients and survivors are at a higher risk for complications from all influenza viruses. That is why it is important for you to get your vaccination now so that you have time to build immunity before the flu season kicks into high gear.
Q. What are the symptoms of the 2009 H1N1 and seasonal flu?
A. Symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea. People may be infected with the flu, including the 2009 H1N1, and have respiratory symptoms without a fever.
Q. What should I do if I come into close contact with someone who has the flu?