For the most elderly among Utah's citizens, a single flu shot every winter may not be enough protection, according to an internal medicine specialist.
Dr. Jeffrey G. Ogden, Orem, said anyone older than 80 should have two flu vaccines during the flu season.Ogden, who has an office near the Orem Community Hospital and practices at that hospital as well as Utah Valley Regional Medical Center and American Fork Hospital, will advise the public today on the Health Care Hotline.
He is scheduled to be joined on the program by Dr. Anthony G. Musci of LDS Hospital, another internal medicine specialist.
The Deseret News and the Intermountain Health Care Hospitals sponsor the hotline on the second Saturday of every month.
People older than 80 years "should be vaccinated twice throughout the flu season - once early-on, either mid-September or early October, and then again about January, February," he said.
The shots should be about three months apart. "That's because in the elderly there's not an appropriate immune response. The body does not make an abundant amount of antibodies to the virus with a single vaccination."
He compared this to the weaker response that small children have to polio vaccine, requiring them to get three doses to become immune from that crippler.
For older people, the flu is nothing to sneeze at. Ogden called it "the cold that kills," because of the deadly danger that the disease poses to many, particularly those with weakened immune systems.
People have been getting confused about the benefits of flu shots, he said. Sometimes they think the vaccination should protect them from the common cold.
"They say, `Gee, I had a flu shot last year and I had more colds than ever.' You know, a flu shot and colds don't have anything in common. Flu shots are specifically for the influenza virus."
A flu shot will ward off a particular strain of influenza, but will have no effect on colds, which are caused by different viruses.
Flu shots should be given to anyone older than 65, health-care workers, people in close contact with the elderly or those whose immune systems are compromised (that is, people more vulnerable to a deadly case of flu), teachers or others who work with small children, and anyone with small children at home.
The children themselves, however, shouldn't necessarily get flu shots.
Asked why shots are recommended for some people and not others, Ogden said it is because the flu vaccine causes flu in about one out of every 10,000 who get the shots. With more than 200 million Americans, that would mean that thousands could get flu if everyone got a vaccine.
"We vaccinate the populations who are most likely to be exposed and the most susceptible should they contract the illness," he said.
Questions about colds and flu will be answered over the telephone free of charge today during the monthly Deseret News-Intermountain Health Care Hotline.
Dr. Anthony G. Musci of the Outpatient Clinic at LDS Hospital, Eighth Avenue and C Street, and Dr. Jeffrey G. Ogden, Orem, who practices at Orem Community Hospital, Utah Valley Regional Medical Center and American Fork Hospital, will offer insights into the common cold and its bigger, meaner cousin - influenza.
They will be available to answer questions from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Anyone may call the hotline toll-free from throughout the United States at 1-800-925-8177.