Are You Ready for Flu Season?

Rarely, I take time out on this blog to discuss regular health issues I find important. I am a proponent of vaccines. I’ve seen non-immunized children suffer the effects of illnesses that they could have been protected against.

While doing an on-line education program for my nursing job, I came across some very valuable statistics that I wanted to share with you. I don’t have an author of the CEU but the company is called CHEX and the module is called Influenza Introduction (v.6.14). The information in this post comes directly from that program to give credit where it’s due.

Did you know that pediatric influenza deaths numbered 830 between the years of 2004 and 2012? Does that surprise you? It surprised me and I work in the healthcare field. When flu season hits, we test for Flu A and Flu B. What’s the difference? Flu A is capable of infecting animals like wild birds. Flu A is also responsible for the majority of deaths in the pediatric category (78%). Flu B is only found in humans and is less likely to cause pandemics. There is also Flu C but infection is usually mild and well tolerated. It is not thought to cause pandemics either.

Of the pediatric deaths mentioned above the mean age was seven. Thirty-five percent died before hospital admission and 43% had no high risk complication (something like asthma.) The majority of deaths were among children who had not been immunized.

The flu vaccine is not perfect. It’s effective in about 60% of cases or has a moderate rate of effectiveness.

The benefits of getting a flu vaccine are decreased illness, decreased unnecessary use of antibiotics, decreased incidence of hospitalizations and decreased deaths.

The age old question is why some people still get the flu despite being immunized. Chances are they were exposed shortly before the vaccine or in the two weeks before they had immunity from the vaccine. They could have gotten a virus that wasn’t covered by the vaccine or they didn’t get an adequate immune response after the shot. I have a personal friend who doesn’t mount an immune response when she gets normal immunizations.

No vaccine is perfect but, personally, I don’t like the risks of not immunizing my children every year for the flu.

What about you? Will you be getting your flu shot this year?

Up and Coming and Vaccine Myths

Hello Redwood’s Fans!

How has your week been? Is everyone else loving Autumn right now? Football season is in full swing and I’m happy to note that my team, the Broncos, are currently undefeated. I was not one that quickly jumped on the Peyton Manning boat. I still am pining the loss of Tebow but I may now be seeing the light. We’ll see if Manning can go all the way this year.

Last week I posted about some common fall/winter illnesses: flu and RSV. I got this comment from a reader (Yes! I absolutely read them.) I thought I’d expand here.

From Andrea:

Here’s my thinking on the flu shot. If everyone around me gets it, then why should I? LOL I am always on the fence. I’ve only had the shot once. They always guess at the strain of flu that will come so you have a 50-50 shot. (ha pun not intended but it works!) I’ve also heard if it isn’t given correctly, there can be other complications. Truth??

Jordyn says:

There are a couple of myths around vaccines I’d like to speak on here. I am pro-immunization. I know others who read this aren’t and I know why you are– because I’ve been in pediatrics for seventeen years and have heard your reasons. What frustrates me is that I think there is little voice to the other side. Anti-vaccine people get a lot of lime light and it does risk lives when people choose not to immunize.

This is a common myth– if everyone else is vaccinated– why should I be? They’ll protect me.

For one– more and more people are choosing not to vaccinate so you can’t rely on “herd immunity” that much anymore. Herd immunity is the number of vaccinated individuals in a population. The problem is for certain diseases, you need a high percentage of herd immunity to afford protection. For something like measles– the herd immunity needs to be 95%. This news story reports immunization rates in Colorado dropping to 85% in 2011. What that means is that if measles breaks loose in CO– people are going to be infected. Here’s a recent news story about a measles outbreak in Alberta, Canada.

As a physician is quoted in the above article: “Some have become more afraid of the vaccine than they are of the disease.”

And the reason for this is partly due to the success of immunizations preventing the disease and the general population not seeing children sickened, ill and dying from these diseases.

Which I have seen— and why I believe in immunizations.

The second part to Andrea’s question was even if the vaccine is given properly– there can be complications. Yes, this is true. As with any shot there is risk of localized shot reaction (which some may think is cellulitis but often times is not), pain, tenderness, swelling and risk for infection.

Most physicians think the benefits (not getting measles) is worth these possible side effects.

Do they just guess as to what goes into the flu shot? Yes and no. You can read about that here

It’s like predicting a football game– you look at the data for both teams and make a prediction. It is still a guess but it’s based on data.

One last myth: It’s better to get the actual disease. This is absolutely not true.

Ask those who lost kids to H1N1– about 90% weren’t vaccinated. They might have a different

Here is the series I did on immunizations if interested:

There ARE risks to vaccines– so educate yourself and decide if you think the risk is worth it. But also read about the complications of diseases you’re choosing not to protect your child against and decide if you can live with that risk as well.

For you this week:

Tuesday: Just exactly how do people forge prescriptions? This is a must-read article for every writer/author.

Thursday: Signs of child abuse. Just what are we in pediatrics looking for?

Have a GREAT week– and get your flu shot.