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Some vaccines important for senior health

Downey (Calif.) Regional Medical Center RN Connie Meinke holds a syringe filled with the flu vaccine.
Downey (Calif.) Regional Medical Center RN Connie Meinke holds a syringe filled with the flu vaccine. MCT

Older adults often are urged to get certain shots. What are they, and why are they recommended?

Shingles

This painful viral infection’s rash of blisters most often attacks the left or right side of the torso, according to the Mayo Clinic’s website. Shingles is connected to chickenpox; if you’ve had chickenpox, the virus can lie dormant in your body for years, usually near the brain and the spinal cord. The vircella-zoster virus may reactivate as shingles, the Mayo Clinic says. This isn’t a brief problem; the pain can last for months or even years for some patients, even after the rash goes away, according to the Centers for Disease Control’s website. This is called post-herpetic neuralgia, the most common shingles complication.

People over age 60 are advised to get the zoster vaccine to protect against shingles, according to the CDC, because the risk of shingles and PHN increases as we age. The vaccine is given in a single dose and is recommended once.

Seasonal flu

The CDC states that it recommends “use of the flu shot (inactivated influenza vaccine or IIV) and the recombinant influenza vaccine (RIV). The nasal spray flu vaccine (live attenuated influenza vaccine or LAIV) should not be used during 2016-2017,” according to the CDC’s website.

Influenza can create serious complications for those 65 years and older (because immune defenses become weaker with age) and anyone with certain diseases such as diabetes, heart disease or asthma. These complications include pneumonia, bronchitis, sinus infections and ear infections, according to the CDC. An annual flu shot is recommended.

“Just a few weeks ago, we reported the first case of influenza (flu) confirmed in the Mississippi Public Health Laboratory for the 2016-2017 flu season, and our surveillance indicates that we are up to sporadic flu activity in the state now,” Mississippi State Department of Health State Epidemiologist Dr. Paul Byers said this week. “You really want to go ahead and get vaccinated now instead of waiting for widespread flu activity since it can take the flu shot one to two weeks to produce immunity.”

Pneumococcal vaccines

Pneumococcal disease which is any type of infection caused by the Streptococcus penumoniae bacteria. There are two kinds of pneumococcal vaccines recommended for those 65 and older: PCV13, or pneumococcal conjugate vaccine, and PPSV23, penumococcal polysaccaride vaccine, according to the CDC, which recommends getting a dose of PCV13 first, followed by a dose of PPSV23, at least a year later. “If you’ve already received a dose of PCV13 at a younger age, another dose of PCV13 is not recommended,” the CDC states.

Pneumococcal infections can range from ear and sinus infections to pneumonia and bloodstream infections. PCV13 protects against 13 strains of pneumococcus bacteria and PPSV23 protects against 23 strains of pneumococcus bacteria. Both vaccines provide protection against illnesses like meningitis and bacteremia. PCV13 also provides protection against pneumonia. the CDC says.

Always check with your doctor on vaccines you might need.

Tammy Smith: 228-896-2130, @Simmiefran1

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