No Spleen during Flu Season

Patient

Q: I had a splenectomy when I was 12, I am now 26. I was not a real sickly child, outside of common yearly colds, strep throat and such. My mom is an RN, she is fearful with swine flu coming, saying I am at high risk. I did put my name on a list for when the vaccines are available. Not having a spleen am I high risk, and am I more susceptible to the flu? What precautions should i be taking?

Doctor

A:   The spleen is an organ in the upper left quadrant of the abdomen.  Patients who have had their spleen removed or damaged are at life long risk for a variety of serious infections - especially those caused by encapsulated bacteria such as Streptococcus pneumoniae, Haemophilus influenzae and Neisseria meningitidis.
To manage this risk you should be immunized every 5 years against the above infections. If you have other medical complications, your doctor may advise a schedule of immunizations closer that 5 years apart.
You are not at high risk for Influenza (the flu) or more susceptible to get it - but if you did get the flu - it would put you at a higher risk to get one of the above infections.  It is a good idea for you to receive the flu as part of the general population.  It is more important that your other immunizations are up to date and you follow good hand hygiene during flu season.

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