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Adults With Diabetes Need a Flu Shot: Experts

Large Canadian study finds people with diabetes are more likely to get sick from flu, be hospitalized

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Dr. Spyros Mezitis, an endocrinologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, said people with diabetes have weakened immune systems. "Diabetics are not as strong in defending themselves against disease, and that's why they need to get the flu vaccine," he said.

Flu shots are recommended for the general public as well, another expert said.

The recommendation in the United States is that everyone 6 months and older get a flu shot, said Dr. William Schaffner, chairman of the department of preventive medicine at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.

This is especially important for people at risk for complications from flu, including people with chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart or lung disease, and pregnant women, he said.

These complications include pneumonia, hospitalization, and dying of the disease or its complications, Schaffner said.

"This study reaffirms what we should be doing and are not doing optimally yet," Schaffner said. "We are not vaccinating the majority of people with diabetes."

Based on their findings, Johnson's team calculated that even if only 20 percent of people with diabetes were vaccinated, it would still be cost-effective in terms of fewer hospitalizations for flu. They cautioned, however, that this cost benefit might only apply in Canada and may differ in other areas.

Dr. Bruce Hirsch, an attending physician in the division of infectious diseases at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, N.Y., said, "Not only should a person with diabetes get a flu shot, but people who live with that person should also be vaccinated."

"This prevents the possibility of infecting that individual, and surrounds a vulnerable person with additional protection," he said.

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