Because neuromuscular disease can weaken the respiratory system, individuals with neuromuscular disease are considered to be at high risk for complications from influenza. Possible complications from influenza include pneumonia, bronchitis, and sinus and ear infections. These complications can lead to hospitalization, or more rarely, death.
In 2009, influenza hit especially hard. As cases of H1N1 influenza reached pandemic proportions, supplies of flu vaccine ran short. Children with neuromuscular disease were among those hit especially hard by the H1N1 outbreak in 2009. Even when flu vaccine was in short supply during 2009, those with neuromuscular disease were on the short-list for vaccination.
According to the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA), while people with neuromuscular disease are at increased risk for serious complication from influenza, they should check with their physician before having any type of vaccination, including for influenza. This is especially the case for those diagnosed with polymyositis, dermatomyositis or myasthenia gravis. Further, anyone who is taking immune-suppressing medications (i.e., corticosteroids) should check with their physician before having a vaccination.
For those with neuromuscular disease, experts at the MDA recommend that the flu vaccine be administered in the form of injection rather than nasal administration. Family members of those with neuromuscular disease should also be vaccinated against influenza.
The MDA’s flu shot program makes reimbursement for the influenza vaccination available for those with a covered neuromuscular disease if their medical insurance does not cover flu vaccine. Individuals must be registered with the MDA to receive reimbursement. See the MDA website for more information.
A few years ago, I waited until the late fall and then had difficulty finding the flu vaccine. This year I will receive the flu vaccine as early as possible. Make sure to talk to your physician about influenza and ask if you should receive vaccination against the flu.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2011). People at High Risk of Developing Flu–Related Complications. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/disease/high_risk.htm on 9/5/13.
Muscular Dystrophy Association (n.d.). A Message from MDA's Executive Vice President & Chief Medical and Scientific Officer. Retrieved from http://www.mda.org/flu-season-support/message on 9/5/13.
Muscular Dystrophy Association (n.d.). MDA's Flu Season Resource Center. Retrieved from http://www.mda.org/flu-season-support on 9/5/13.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, (2012). Children with neurologic disorders at high risk of death from flu. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2012/p0829_neurologic_flu.html on 9/5/13.
Zauoutis, et al., (2005). Neurological and neuromuscular disease as risk factor for respiratory failure in children hospitalized with influenza infection. JAMA, 294:17, 2188-94. Link to abstract: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16264160