Influenza Protection

a big sister pulling her little sister in a sledImportance of Influenza Immunization

Have you had your seasonal flu immunization? If not, you are increasing your risk and risk to those around you to a serious, sometimes fatal, preventable highly infectious disease. Don’t let the flu spoil winter fun.

From national news, we see this year’s flu season is taking a terrible toll. It is especially severe in young children and older people with chronic health conditions. Those with increased risk are diabetics, those with lung conditions, reduced immunity and the very young and old. Highest hospitalization rate is for young children. Numerous respiratory deaths have been reported this year.  Data collected at the CDC show that 90% of deaths from influenza occur in people over the age of 65.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that anyone who has not already received an influenza immunization for this year’s viral strain should be immunized immediately. It takes two weeks for the body to generate antibody protection. Many children are not currently  immunized. The Journal of Pediatrics recommends immunization for children over the age of six months.

Pregnant women are particularly vulnerable. They may develop severe illness so immunization of pregnant women is extremely important. It has also shown a reduction in the newborn’s influenza risk for up to six months following birth.

Influenza vaccine is considered safe based on use statistics over 50 years with hundreds of millions of people. Many parents have been concerned about the risks of thimerosal, a mercury-based preservative used in multi-dose vials. It has been used for 70 to prevent growth of contaminating germs in a drug bottles.

The CDC reports: “Since 2001, no new vaccine licensed by FDA for use in children has contained thimerosal as a preservative, and all vaccines routinely recommended by CDC for children younger than 6 years of age have been thimerosal-free, or contain only trace amounts of thimerosal, except for multi-dose formulations of influenza vaccine. The most recent and rigorous scientific research does not support the argument that thimerosal-containing vaccines are harmful.”

There are numerous studies that show no association between thimerosal and autism.

If you are still concerned and avoid the immunization based on thimerosal concerns, there are two options for influenza immunization that are thimerosal-free:

Single Dose Vials and Nasal Spray Vaccine

The vaccine protects against flu viruses likely to be most virulent in the coming season. If you have not been immunized and suddenly become ill, a nasal swab can confirm the diagnosis. Antiviral drugs shorten the course but may have significant side effects. Prevention is the goal.

Influenza has spread throughout much of the US already. By the end of December 2012, eighteen pediatric deaths occurred and 16,000 people had developed the disease. Spread is rampant, filling Emergency departments and hospitals.

About 50 million people around the world died in the influenza epidemic that swept the world in 1918. Within months, it had killed more people than any other illness in recorded history. We now have excellent prevention and treatment methods that reduce risk and save lives if you use them. Live better through science. Act now.

Person Washing Hands with Soap in WashbasinTo reduce your risks: Most important of all, immunize. Avoid crowds and anyone ill. Wash hands and use alcohol wipes liberally. Use gloves or sleeves to open doors. Avoid shaking hands. Don’t touch your face or nose. Wash your hands with soap after blowing your nose. Avoid visiting hospitals and nursing homes. Keep your child home from school if ill to prevent spread to others. Cover your mouth with coughing and sneezing; cough into your underarm as children are taught.

For more detailed information see:

http://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/season/flu-season-2012-2013.htm or review a previous Lipstick Logic article at: www.lipsticklogic.com. “Learning About Viruses” Sept. 30, 2012.

Betty Kuffel, MD

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