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Israelis are used to getting their annual influenza vaccinations right after Succot, but as 5768 was a leap year with an extra month, the timing is now off - and the health funds have already begun to invite members in for their shots.
For the first time, the Health Ministry has recommended that children between the ages of six months and five years be taken for free vaccination at family health (tipat halav) centers rather than only infants, as young children are the main spreaders of the virus through vulnerable adult populations.
In addition, the four health funds have decided to offer flu shots free to all members and not only those at high risk. Although this means the insurers will have to lay out a lot of money, they decided to provide it to all comers because the vaccination prevents the flu or minimizes complications in those who are protected, and saves them money in the end.
Among those at high risk are people with chronic diseases from cancer, asthma and kidney disease to heart problems and diabetes; employees in nursery schools, day care centers and kindergartens; health staff, including those who work with the elderly; pregnant women beyond the 14th week of gestation; and people over 50.
Healthy people who cannot easily be replaced at work are encouraged to get vaccinated as well.
Tourists planning to spend time in the southern hemisphere between April and September and people going to tropical countries any time of the year should also be vaccinated.
People who are sensitive or allergic to the whites of eggs or those who have a high fever should consult their doctor or health fund nurse; they usually are not vaccinated.
The main symptoms of the flu are a fever over 38 degrees Celsius, headache, weakness, tiredness, respiratory infection and post-nasal drip, a cough or sore throat.
Complications include sinusitis, ear infections and pneumonia, which could become fatal. Antibiotics have no affect against the virus, which mutates every year. Vaccination significantly reduces the number of hospitalization and fatalities among flu victims.
Consult your health fund for details on time and places for getting shots. People over 65 should also get pneumonia vaccine given once every five years or so.
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