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Got diabetes? Take action to protect yourself

Get your flu vaccine during National Diabetes Month
By Centers for Disease Control and Prevention | Nov 19, 2012

November is National Diabetes Month in the United States, and Nov. 14 was World Diabetes Day. These occasions shine a spotlight on a serious disease that can lead to potentially life-threatening complications such as heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, blindness and amputation.

November also offers people with diabetes an important opportunity to protect themselves against influenza — a respiratory illness commonly known as “the flu” — by getting a flu shot. While CDC recommends that everyone 6 months and older get vaccinated against the flu, it’s particularly important that people with diabetes, and certain other medical conditions, protect themselves from the flu with an annual flu shot, even if their diabetes is well controlled. If you have diabetes, you should not get the nasal spray flu vaccine.

While everyone 6 months and older should get vaccinated against the flu each year, it’s really important to get a shot for people with diabetes.

People with type 1 or type 2 diabetes are at increased risk of developing serious flu-related complications. When a person with diabetes gets sick with the flu, it may be difficult to maintain their regular diet or medication regimen. Changes in diet or medication regimen can both lead to changes in blood glucose levels. People with diabetes may have a harder time fighting infections like the flu. Studies have shown that the flu can lead to secondary bacterial infections that can cause pneumonia (people with diabetes should also get the pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine [PPSV]). Flu-related complications like these can result in hospitalization and, in extreme cases, even death.

The burden of flu in people with diabetes was demonstrated last season, when according to CDC 36 percent of flu-related hospitalizations in the United States occurred in people with metabolic disorders (of which diabetes was the most common).

Notably, people with diabetes make up only about 8 percent of the U.S. population.

Influenza activity is increasing in parts of the country and further increases are expected in the coming weeks and months. The best time to get vaccinated is before influenza viruses start circulating.

It takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop in the body and provide protection against influenza virus infection. In the meantime, you are still at risk for getting the flu. That’s why it’s better to get vaccinated early in the fall, before the flu season really gets under way.

For more than 50 years, hundreds of millions of people have safely received flu vaccines in the U.S. The vaccine cannot give people the flu, and it has been shown to decrease the number of flu-related hospitalizations and deaths in people with diabetes. The most common side effects from flu shots are soreness and redness where the shot is given and, occasionally, body aches or low grade fever. The risk of severe side effects is very rare.

Nearly 26 million Americans are living with diabetes and more than one-quarter of them do not know it.

Everybody, especially close family members and caregivers of those with diabetes, should get vaccinated to reduce the risk of spreading the flu.


People with flu-like symptoms, should call a doctor, nurse or clinic right away – even if they have had a flu shot. A doctor or clinic can prescribe medicine to treat the flu and reduce the chances of serious illness. It’s important to start taking the medicine as soon as possible. The medicine works best if taken in the first 48 hours after symptoms start.


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