Category Archives: Immunizations

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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LEARNING ABOUT VIRUSES

VIRUS OVERVIEW AND UPDATE

 

Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS)

There is a new strain of the potentially deadly virus related to SARS. The initial fear was we’d be facing an aggressive form like the outbreak in China that killed one in ten victims and infected about 8,000. The World Health Organization reports this new form is not as easily spread from person to person. Like the SARS outbreak which began in China in 2002, it is related to a common cold virus of the coronavirus family. Only one person has died. One person is critically ill. Both are from the Middle East where this new form was first identified.

Influenza A (H3N2v) Variant Virus Outbreaks

The H1N1 virus, found in pigs (2010) and humans (2011) has now surface as a new variant which has infected humans resulting in one death. The variant is transmitted from pigs to humans by droplet contact. Most infected developed only mild symptoms. Any one who is under age 5, over 65, or are pregnant, have diabetes, heart disease or weakened immune systems are at high risk of serious complications. They must have no contact with pigs. There is no risk with eating cooked pork. The seasonal flu vaccine will not protect you from this disease. See a doctor early if you suspect this infection as antiviral drugs may help.  http://www.cdc.gov/flu/swineflu/h3n2v-outbreak.htm

Viruses in Health and Disease

We have all had numerous viral illnesses with little evidence of persistence. Yet, after mapping the human genome, scientists found viruses incorporated into human genes. In fact, 8% of the human genome consists of endogenous (embedded segments) of virus sequences we pass on to our offspring. Many of these are retroviruses, based on RNA. To be functional, RNA viruses must insert themselves into a DNA-based genome which contains reverse transcriptase. The enzyme allows the RNA virus to reproduce itself using the cell’s machinery.

We have known for years that cancers arise from viruses. The Human T-cell Lymphotropic Virus (HTLV) was the first human retrovirus discovered. This virus affects T lymphocytes, white cells responsible for fighting infection. HTLV-1 and HTLV-2 are involved in numerous disease processes including leukemia, lymphoma, skin and neurologic disorders.

The Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) causes a variety of aggressive cancers: cervical, penile, oral and throat. Prevention of HPV-based cancers is now possible with an immunization. (HPV Vaccination) For guidelines: www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd-vac/hpv/

 

A recent discovery by researchers at the University of Texas broadens understanding of the viruses embedded in our genes. They found human genomes and those of other mammals contain Bornavirus DNA. This is an RNA virus which activates viral factories within the cell nucleus establishing persistent infection, and has been passed in mammals throughout evolution. Researchers looked at more than 200 genomes and found Bornavirus sequences in them. Why do you care?

First of all, Bornavirus infects a large number of animals internationally from birds to primates. It causes a severe and usually fatal form of encephalitis with striking behavior changes in horses, but is also seen in cattle, sheep, cats and canines. Changes in horses include: staggering, agitation and depressed behavior. Transmitted by contact with secretions, there is an incubation period from weeks to months.

Viral infections caused by influenza, cytomegalovirus (CMV) and herpes simplex virus (HSV) may be involved with psychiatric disorders but no clear causation has been reported. Bornavirus antibodies and viral RNA have been found in humans with psychiatric disorders but there is no proven direct causal link between Bornavirus infection and mental problems. Genetic and environmental factors both interact in the expression of psychiatric illness including schizophrenia and mood disorders. Research is ongoing and is a field to watch.

Information on this virus, its diagnosis and correlation with evidence for possible infection in humans causing mental disorders is discussed in detail in the following source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC164222/ from Clinical Microbiology Reviews.

There is much we do not know about how latent viruses may affect our health. Maybe they will never surface and will lie dormant in our genes over a lifetime. Many people are all too aware of Varicella Zoster Virus. This one lies dormant after having chicken pox as a child. Anyone who has had chicken pox and recovered may develop this painful blistering skin rash that follows nerves along one side of the body. One out of three people develop shingles. The best treatment is prevention and an immunization is available, even at local pharmacies. There are medications that help and you should see a doctor if you develop shingles. Zostavax® immunization is recommended by the CDC for those over age 60.  Guidelines at the CDC:

http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd-vac/shingles/vacc-need-know.htm#get-vaccine

Studies show viruses change the way genes turn on and off in embryonic stem cells. As more research information surfaces, studies using new molecular mechanisms to turn cell functions on and off are designed. Cancer treatment studies are now targeting the on-off switches which could stop rapid growth of abnormal cells and halt cancer growth.

Betty Kuffel, MD