Health Matters: The Ballyhoo About the Flu is True: Don’t Let the Flu Get You

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Flu is the nickname for the illness caused by the oftentimes too deadly influenza virus. The flu is often considered to be just another “cold” and is dismissed as inevitable (since one has recovered completely so many times from colds, just another nuisance). However, 50,000-80,000 Americans die yearly because of those microscopic guys, not to mention the severe illnesses they cause. And about 80% of these deaths are in the elderly. The death toll is not accurate, because “flu” may not appear on the death certificate.

Clearly, the best defense against the flu is to get vaccinated yearly. e u vaccine is the least effective among the common vaccines because there are over 20 flu varieties of A and B subsets, but the CDC selects 4 strains to protect against each year based on predictions of which strains will cause the most problems. Also, a significant number of those immunized, especially seniors, will not make sufficient antibodies to provide immunity, but those vaccinated generally have less serious sicknesses.

e same type of vaccine has been given since 1945, but now there are newer u vaccines to choose from with special attributes. e entire standard vaccine this year provides immunity against 4 strains of the virus; a newer high-dose type has the same 4 protections, except the dose of antigen (stimulus to immunity) is 4 times stronger. The high-dose vaccine is formulated to maximally stimulate the immune system, which is especially beneficial in those with weak immune systems— mostly older folks. In a large study, the high-dose vaccine was 24% more effective in preventing the flu in recipients over 65 years. Consider high-dose— I Do. Timing of the vaccination is important because the effectiveness begins to diminish after six months. Since the peak season for infections usually starts in December becoming worst usually during the Christmas-New-Year’s holidays and maximum immunity takes at least two weeks to achieve, about the middle of October is the best time to be vaccinated. The other vaccine, FLUAD, has adjuvant to provoke protection, but not much data so far. I would wait on this one.

In general, the guess as to which of the 4 strains covered by this year’s vaccine will work is on target, but not always (with international travel at an all-time high). People die because the body fighting flu weakens and, in a weakened state, cannot control other deadly organisms. Bacteria are ready to move in and often do. Pneumococci (pneumo-lung, cocci-small spherical bacteria) are the most common gatecrashers; they are ubiquitous in older people. We must protect against them as well! Get belt and suspenders coverage for your protection this year. By that I mean get both flu and pneumococcal (if you have not had it) vaccinations to keep on keeping on.

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