Flu.gov, CDC: Get a Flu Shot If You Have Rheumatoid Arthritis

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The CDC has issued an important message for people with certain types of arthritis. Patients with conditions such as inflammatory arthritis or rheumatic disease are at higher risk of developing complications for both seasonal and 2009 H1N1 flu and should be vaccinated as soon as the vaccine becomes available to them.

Flu.gov lists the following conditions as having a higher risk of flu-related complications such as pneumonia. These conditions weaken the immune system and are more susceptible to the virus:

* Rheumatoid arthritis
* Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE)
* Psoriatic arthritis
* Anti-phospholipid syndrome
* Polymyalgia rheumatic
* System sclerosis or Scleroderma
* Spondyloarthropathies
* Sjogren’s syndrome
* Polymyositis and dermatomyositis
* Vasculitis
* Necrotising arteritis
* Sarcoidosis
* Polyarteritis nodosa

Patients with osteoarthritis are not considered high risk, unless they have another condition such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease, or cancer.

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Many patients with the above conditions take medications, such as prednisone, that can further weaken the immune system, increasing the risk of flu complications further. This list includes medications that are ingested orally or injected. It does not apply to topical medications, such as steroid creams and lotions for conditions such as eczema. The full list can be viewed at flu.gov. Search under “People with Health Conditions” and look for “Additional Guidelines for people with arthritis”

Patients should continue to take all medications as prescribed, even if they get the flu, unless their physician states otherwise.

Patients with these conditions should not use the inhaled (nasal) vaccine, because it contains live virus. It is recommended to receive only the injected seasonal flu and H1N1 flu vaccine because the virus is inactivated. A study published in the 2006 Annals of Rheumatic Disease found that patients with rheumatoid arthritis taking immunosuppressant drugs were able to respond to the immunity provided by the flu shot, although the response was not as strong as healthy adults.

For patients with any health condition that puts them at risk for flu-related complications, the CDC recommends that patients get a written record of all conditions, medications (both prescribed and over-the-counter), and treatments using to manage your health. Also include the name, phone number and office address of your health care providers. Keep this list with you at all times in case of emergency.

If flu-like symptoms develop, it is important to contact your healthcare provider by telephone first. Seek medical care early to prevent complications, but follow the advice of your physician for whether you are needed to be seen in person for treatment.

Sources Include: Flu.gov, CDC, and the Arthritis Foundation

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