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When it comes to contagious diseases like the flu, CLL patients are among the most vulnerable to infection and serious complications. Due to an impaired immune system, however, the flu vaccine might not give them as much protection as healthy individuals receive. Nevertheless, the flu vaccine is highly recommended by most CLL doctors as long as the vaccine is an injection, not the nasal spray that contains live flu virus.
Timing of the flu season varies from community to community, but often begins as early as October or November in the U.S., and can continue as late as May. The U.S. Center for Disease Control recommends people get a flu vaccine by the end of October. Vaccination later, however, can still be beneficial, even as late as January.
As always, check with your healthcare provider before getting a flu vaccine, especially if you are allergic to eggs. Also, ask if the regular, non-live injection is sufficient, or if you would benefit from the high dose vaccine that contains four times the amount of antigen as the regular flu shot. And, if you do get the flu, ask about treatment with antivirals such as Tamiflu®, which work best when begun within 48 hours of getting sick. They can shorten the duration of the illness and help prevent serious complications.