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Flu Shot: Vaccine vital for diabetics in Alabama

Alabama has one of the highest percentages of diabetics in the country. During flu season, the virus could cause more health complications.

Posted: Jan. 16, 2019 5:26 PM
Updated: Jan. 16, 2019 6:48 PM

With flu season in full swing, some Alabamians have a higher risk of health complications than others because of diabetes. That's because people with diabetes have a harder time fighting off the virus.

Claudia Hill has had the flu before, but after being diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in 2012, she knows she can't afford to miss a flu vaccine.

"I've heard some people that have contracted the flu, they really had a hard time, and I know that there have been deaths across the nation," Hill said.

Diabetes is the body's inability to regulate the amount of glucose in the blood because it cannot use or produce the necessary amount of insulin. Because of this, diabetics suffer from an impaired immune system and face a higher risk of infection. When it comes to the flu, it could cause more complications.

"Pneumonia is probably one of the number ones, but also infection, bladder infection, lung infection," Marlyse Knezevich, a diabetes educator at Huntsville Hospital, said. "If you have anything going on at that time that isn't healed, that is going to become worse."

The concern is bigger in Alabama. According to the United Health Foundation, 1 out of 10 adults in America suffers from diabetes, but in Alabama, that number jumps to 14.1 percent, the third highest in the country.

Diabetics are recommended to get vaccinated through the flu shot instead of the nasal spray, which actually could cause more problems.

"The nasal spray itself is a live virus, so when that is introduced to your body, you are essentially given a very small dose of the flu," Knezevich said.

With diabetics having weaker immune systems, introducing the flu to the body is a concern. Hill makes sure to get her flu shot every year now and says having diabetes has made her more aware of the dangers.

"I don't get scared necessarily, but I'm conscious of when I'm out and about, touching things, and making sure that I, you know, wash my hands," Hill said.

Knezevich says getting vaccinated earlier is the best option for diabetics in order to build up your immune system.

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