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Many at High Risk Don't Get Flu Shot

Getting the word out to vulnerable groups is key, survey finds

TUESDAY, Dec. 12, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- About half of American adults who are at high risk for flu and related complications don't know that they need to get a flu shot and therefore don't get one, according to a survey of 300 adults conducted in September 2004 and March 2005.

People at high risk include adults aged 65 and older and people ages 18 to 64 who have chronic health conditions. Another high priority group of adults are those who are in regular contact with high-risk adults or children.

Each year, flu-related illnesses kill about 36,000 people in the United States, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"We need to be clearer about who is in the high risk groups. If we can frame health messages around easily identifiable risk categories, then others -- including family and friends of high risk individuals -- can help persuade those at high risk to get their flu shot. This simple message could very well save lives," Dr. Noel T. Brewer, assistant professor of health behavior and health education at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, said in a prepared statement.

Brewer and Dr. William K. Hallman, professor of human ecology at Rutgers University, led the study.

Half of the survey respondents who met CDC criteria for being at high risk said they believed their risk was low and did not get a flu shot.

Overall, more than 60 percent of elderly respondents did get a flu shot, compared with 26 percent of younger adults at high risk and 36 percent of people who had regular contact with adults at high risk. Only a few people overestimated their flu risk.

The study was published in the Dec. 1 issue of the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers advice on how to prevent flu.

SOURCE: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, news release, Dec. 4, 2006
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