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It's ready; come and get it!

 

It's just mid-September.

We have had a couple of days that have hinted of fall, with some cool nights and pleasantly warm, sunny days. Winter seems like a long time away. Yet you are already seeing advertisements about flu vaccines and are being urged to get vaccinated.

You know how I feel about flu vaccine.

I write about it every year. You know I will get my vaccine, and that I will encourage you to get yours and to also get your children vaccinated.

I often don't write about this until October or later. Why now?

Why get the shot now? Won't it wear off? What if the flu season comes late this year? After all, most people don't see a peak in their areas until December or January.

Huh?

Don't bother me, you are thinking.

I can still go out and enjoy myself in the sunshine. Go hiking or camping or whatever else I want to do. Why in the world should I do something that might make my arm hurt for a couple days, or remind me that winter is on its way?

Well, its simple, really.

The best way to prevent the flu from rearing its ugly head in our area (or any area) is to ensure that such a large percentage of the population is protected, that it can't gain a stronghold to start spreading rapidly and causing loss of school days, or lost days of work.

After the shot or the nasal spray, it takes about two weeks to develop antibodies that will circulate in the bloodstream that would come to your rescue should you be exposed to any of the flu viruses whose proteins are contained in the shot. (The nasal spray contains actual live virus particles that have been altered to not cause actual illness). Once you m ake the antibiodies they will circulate in your bloodstream for at least 6 months, and then up to about a year. However, once your "memory cells" have seen the viral proteins and have made appropriate antibodies, they can start making new antibodies rapidly if the particular virus tries to gain a foothold in your body at any time in the future.

So, early is better.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone over 6 months of age receive an immunization appropriate for their age, and has further recommended that if possible, this should occur BY October. This way, by the time the weather starts to turn rather cold, and folks are indoors more, providing a greater opportunity for viral particles to spread, more will have protective antibodies, and it will be less likely that the viruses can cause major damage to our society.

Every year the components of the vaccine are different, and this year we have, for the first time a "quadrivalent" flu vaccine.

Quad means four--so this year's vaccine is meant to protect against two strains of the "A" type viruses and two types of the "B" type viruses.

For those of you who care about specifics:

  • A/California/7/2009 [H1N1]-otherwise known as the swine flu. This virus caused the pandemic in 2009 and continues to circulate, causing disease around the world
  • A/Texas/50/2012 [H3N2]-otherwise known as the avian flu. This virus is circulating in parts of Asia and Australia/New Zealand and expected to become more prevalent for us this year. It has a potential for causing a pandemic if enough of the population remains unprotected.
  • B/Massachussetts/2/2012
  • B/Brisbane/60/2008

The B viruses tend to be somewhat milder and may occur later in the season than the A viruses, but every flu season is different.

So...PLEASE make a plan today for when you will get yours and your children's vaccines. AND if you are a healthcare provider, know that if you don't get vaccinated yearly you could be placing the lives of your patients in jeopardy.

Thanks for listening to my rant.

Please leave me your comments, questions and concerns below. I will try to get the answers even to topics in which I am not an expert.

 


photo credits:

sign: http://www.flickr.com/photos/928gt/5872548950/

swine: http://www.flickr.com/photos/wwworks/2971831776/

H1N1: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ajc1/3493605447/

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