Thursday, October 24, 2013
Don't be confused about the reasons to get your flu shot

By Dr. Anthony Policastro
Flu season is quickly approaching and now is the time to prepare by getting a flu shot. As is often the case in medicine, there are several things that people do not understand about flu shots. As a result, some people who need a flu shot do not get one. For example, we recently started giving high dose flu vaccine to older individuals. Some people interpret this as it being a stronger shot. Actually, what it means is that these individuals have less active immune systems. For that reason, a higher dose is more likely to result in an appropriate response. Some people think that they had a flu shot last year so they do not need one this year. Actually, the flu vaccine is different every year. There are many strains of flu. Some are Type A. Some are Type B. Each season we guess at which types are going to be present that season. It is an educated guess. It is based upon what we are seeing elsewhere in the world. We then make up the vaccine based upon that. Therefore the vaccine does not contain the same thing as last year. The next thing that people think is that if they have a flu shot, they have full protection. Again the vaccine is based upon an educated guess. The strains in it are the ones that we think we will see. However, that does not stop a different strain from causing an epidemic. If that happens, you can get the flu even though you had the vaccine. Some people express concern that they will get the flu if they have the flu shot. For the most part that is not true. You might coincidentally become ill with something after a flu shot. It is not likely to be from the shot itself. There is good evidence to suggest that the more times you get a flu shot, the less likely you are to have a reaction to it. Some people think that getting the flu just means that they will be ill for a few days so they do not see a reason to be immunized. That is true for most people, however, some people will get very sick. Some will need to be hospitalized. We cannot predict who those people will be so we immunize everyone. Another thought is that your underlying health is not an issue if you get the flu. They could not be more wrong. For example, we try to protect those over age 65 from the flu. If you look at the mortality statistics for the flu, there is an obvious reason for that. Nine out of every 10 people who ultimately die from the flu are over age 65. Thus this group of individuals is a group who is less likely to just be ill for a few days. The same thing is true for people who have underlying diseases. For example, everyone with asthma needs a flu shot. The flu can be deadly for this group of individuals. The same is true of diabetics. People with diabetes are three times as likely as the general population to be hospitalized for the flu. They are also three times as likely to die from the flu. Other chronic illnesses carry the same increased risk. Anyone with a chronic illness needs to consult with their physician about a flu shot each year. We have an influenza epidemic every year. Some people tend to take it for granted. Unfortunately, a few of those individuals will not be around to take it for granted the following year if they do not get their flu shot.

Seasonal flu shots offered at Mears Health Campus Nanticoke Memorial Hospital will offer seasonal flu shots to individuals 18 and older at Nanticoke Memorial Hospital's Mears Health Campus (300 Rawlins Dr., Seaford, Rehabilitation Services Building) on the following dates: Thursday, Oct. 24 - 4 to 8 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 31 - 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. There is no charge for this year's flu shots. A donation of $10 per vaccination is appreciated. Pre-registration is not required.

Free balance screenings offered Suffering from dizziness or loss of balance? In honor of National PT Month, Seaford Physical Therapy of Aquacare will offer free screenings during the month of October to see if you would benefit from physical therapy. Licensed physical therapists will provide an assessment of your balance and give tips on strategies to improve your balance. Vertigo is the sensation of spinning. Even when being still, you may feel like you are moving, or that the room is moving around you. You may also experience nausea, vomiting, sweating, and abnormal eye movements. Physical therapy for balance, vertigo, or dizziness is covered by most insurances. For more information or to schedule a free screening, call 536-1774.

Diabetes education program offered Nanticoke Memorial Hospital, Seaford, will hold a four-session diabetes education program on Oct. 30, Nov. 6, 13 and 20, from 5 to 7 p.m., at the hospital. Registration is required. The cost of the program may be reimbursable by insurance. This four-session program includes weekly education sessions and individualized meal planning for diabetes self-management. Family members/significant others are welcome to attend the weekly sessions. Pre-registration is required. For more information and to register, contact Nanticoke Memorial Hospital's Diabetes Education department at 629-6611, ext. 2446.

Mini-Walk for Alzheimer's The 4th Annual Mini-Walk for the Alzheimer's Association along with a yard sale will take place on Saturday, Nov. 2. The yard sale will run from 8 a.m. to noon and the mini-walk begins at 10:30 a.m. at Lofland Park Center at Genesis in Seaford. All proceeds benefit the Alzheimer's Association. For details call 628-3000.

State to distribute KI tablets The Delaware Emergency Management Agency (DEMA) and Delaware Division of Public Health will distribute potassium iodide (KI) tablets to Delaware residents living within a 10-mile radius of the Salem/Hope Creek Nuclear Generating Stations. Residents living within the affected radius, called the Emergency Planning Zone (EPZ), have received notification of the distribution via mail. For more information, call the Delaware Emergency Management Agency Radiological Emergency Planning section at 302-659-3362.

Video can help kids who stutter Kids who stutter have a lot to say, and friends can show them how in Stuttering: For Kids By Kids, a video starring kids who stutter, available at most public libraries. Many children who stutter have never met anyone else who struggles with the same disability. But in this video from the Stuttering Foundation, they meet other kids who recount how they handle challenges such as teasing, speaking out in class, and teaching others about stuttering. Swish, a lively and engaging animated basketball character designed by students at Purdue University, narrates the DVD. The children, who range in age from first-graders to high school students, offer frank and sometimes differing views of stuttering. "This is an important tool for families and teachers of kids who stutter," added Jane Fraser, president of the nonprofit Stuttering Foundation. To view the video, contact your local library.

Annual Run/Walk for MS The annual PNC Bank Thanksgiving Day Run/Walk for MS in Wilmington will take place on Thanksgiving Day, Thursday, Nov. 28. For more information and to register, visit All proceeds go to MS research and the programs and services needed by more than 1,550 Delawareans with MS and their families.

St. Jude Motorcycle Ride Due to inclement weather, the 4th Annual Cat Country Cares for St. Jude Kids Motorcycle Ride, presented by Custom Mechanical and Geico will now take place on Sunday, Oct. 27, starting at the White Marlin Mall in Ocean City. Registration begins at 10 a.m., and the ride goes "kickstands up" at 11:30. All proceeds benefit St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn., the world's leading facility in dealing with childhood cancer. Registration is $25 per bike, and $5 per additional rider. To pre-register, visit For details contact Dixie Kelly at 410-219-3500.

Stroke and osteoporosis screenings Residents living in and around Bridgeville may be screened by Life Line Screening to reduce their risk of having a stroke or bone fracture at Union United Methodist Church in Bridgeville on Monday, Nov. 11. The event is sponsored by Bayhealth Medical Center. Screenings identify potential cardiovascular conditions such as blocked arteries and irregular heart rhythm, abdominal aortic aneurysms, and hardening of the arteries in the legs, which is a strong predictor of heart disease. A bone density screening to assess osteoporosis risk is also offered and is appropriate for both men and women. Packages start at $159. All five screenings take 60 to 90 minutes to complete. For more information or to schedule an appointment, call 877-237-1287 or visit Pre-registration is required.

Free flu vaccine on Oct. 24 The Delaware Division of Public Health (DPH) will prepare for the 2013-2014 flu season by offering free influenza vaccines to the public in Sussex County at the Georgetown Presbyterian Church from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. The flu clinic is being run as a timed drill so DPH staff can practice their readiness in the event of a large-scale health emergency. Public Health nurses will administer flu vaccine to Delawareans age 6 months and above. They will offer the intramuscular flu vaccine for ages 6 months and above, and the nasal FluMist for ages 9 years to 49 years. Clients who sign a media consent form may be photographed.

E-Racing the Blues Walk/Run Christa Scalies, suicide prevention and mental health advocate and founder of Giggle On, will lead a pre-race 10-minute laughter warm-up session of 5K participants in the 11th Annual E-Racing the Blues 5K/10K Walk/Run hosted by the Mental Health Association in Delaware on Sunday, Oct. 27. For more information about the walk/run, visit