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Flu Season Support

Children and adults with muscular dystrophy, ALS and related diseases that limit muscle strength and mobility are at increased risk of serious and possibly life-threatening complications from the flu, so it's important that everyone stays informed and takes steps to protect themselves and their families. To get started, we've gathered the following information, recommended guidelines and resources to help keep you informed.

A Message from MDA's National Director of Support Services

September 2017

Dear MDA Families,

It's hard to believe that flu season is upon us, but since it's that time of year again, I want you to know that MDA is here to help by providing information and resources. Influenza — both the seasonal and H1N1 varieties — can cause serious and sometimes life-threatening illness for those affected by muscular dystrophy, ALS and related neuromuscular diseases that limit muscle strength and mobility. That's why it's so important to be proactive and take the necessary precautions to stay healthy. To help you get started, we have provided the following information and resources.

For most of us, one of the most common and best ways to prevent the flu is to get a flu shot (injection). In previous years, a nasal spray vaccine also was offered. However, due to recent data on the vaccine’s effectiveness, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) no longer recommends this form of the vaccine as a protective measure against seasonal influenza.

For 2017-2018, both trivalent (three components) and quadrivalent (four components) influenza vaccines are available. The standard trivalent flu vaccine protects against three forms of influenza — two influenza A viruses (H1N1 and H3N2), as well as the common influenza B virus. The quadrivalent form protects against these same viruses and an additional form of influenza B. Also, a new vaccine called FLUAD, which contains adjuvant, is now available for adults 65 years and older. An adjuvant is an ingredient added to a vaccine that helps promote a stronger immune response to the vaccination. FLUAD is the first adjuvanted seasonal flu vaccine marketed in the United States.

Also, if you’ve avoided seasonal influenza vaccines in the past because of an egg allergy, be sure to speak with your physician about updated recommendations for the 2017-2018 flu season.

Of course, it's important to check with your doctor before obtaining any vaccine, especially if you're affected by myasthenia gravispolymyositisdermatomyositis, or if you're taking immune-suppressing medications such as corticosteroids (e.g., prednisone, deflazacort, prednisolone).

If your physician recommends an influenza vaccine, it's best to receive it before flu activity begins. It takes about two weeks after vaccination for the body to develop an immune response that’s sufficient to provide protection. The CDC recommends receiving a flu vaccine by the end of October, but obtaining a vaccination later still can be beneficial.

Many health professionals accept most major insurance plans, including Medicare, for payment toward flu vaccinations. Flu vaccines are available through physicians’ offices, state and county health departments, college health centers and many retail pharmacies.

If you need assistance locating a flu shot provider in your area and/or assistance with finding resources that can assist with the cost of influenza vaccines, MDA's National Resource Center can identify programs in your community that may be able to help. The Resource Center is open Monday through Friday, 9am - 5pm Central time. Contact us at 800-572-1717 or ResourceCenter@mdausa.org. Questions and requests for assistance may be submitted on weekends or holidays. A resource specialist will respond within 24 hours or by the next business day.

There are other ways to help protect yourself and your loved ones from getting the flu. We invite you to explore the information on this page to learn more about about influenza, flu prevention, the flu vaccine and how MDA can help you locate a flu shot program in your area. We can't keep flu season from coming, but there's a lot we can do to prepare and help protect you and your family from its implications.

Sincerely yours,
Elise Qvale
MDA National Director of Support Services

Flu Season Tips 

In addition to receiving a flu vaccine, here are some ways you can protect yourself and those you love from exposure to influenza:

  • Educate family members and roommates about the heightened risk of influenza for individuals with neuromuscular diseases, and the importance of staying away from others who are experiencing flulike symptoms.
  • Promote good hand hygiene among everyone in your home, which means washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds (the time it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” twice), especially after coughing or sneezing. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers containing at least 60 percent alcohol also are effective.
  • Encourage everyone in your home to practice respiratory etiquette by covering coughs and sneezes with tissues or with your arm. Dispose of tissues in a waste receptacle after use.
  • Among your roommates and/or immediate family members, stress the importance of not sharing utensils and drinking cups, and encourage everyone to avoid touching their faces, especially after handling shared items such as telephones or remote controls.
  • Educate yourself about symptoms of the flu — fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, chills and fatigue. Diarrhea and vomiting also may be experienced.
  • Contact your physician as soon as possible if you develop flulike symptoms.
  • Visit the CDC’s website and Flu.gov for additional tips and recommendations.

Influenza Resources from the CDC