Pediatrician
Dr. Shapiro completed his undergraduate education at UC San Diego, earning a B.S. in Biochemistry and Cell Biology, and a B.A. in Political Science. He furthered his education at UCLA where he earned a Masters Degree in Public…
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Preventing the Dreaded Flu
Posted in Achondroplasia ... by Dr. Jeremy F. Shapiro on Sep 18, 2008

I recently discussed how the flu season is just around the corner and thought it be a good idea to follow it up with what we all can do to hopefully avoid it.  But I'm sure many would first like to know a bit more about the flu before hearing about the vaccine to prevent it.  So first on my list to share is that we realize the true name is actually influenza.  Certainly, it's nice and easy to just call it the flu, but over the years, saying "I have the flu" may imply a stomach bug to just a good "cold" to actually having the bona fide influenza...high fever, fatigue, sore throat, muscle aches, nasal congestion, and so on.  So in respect to this illness, I will also refer to it by its true name.  Otherwise, additional bits of information about this virus include:



  • In the United States alone, 5-20% of the population may become infected with this illness with greater than 200,000 people requiring hospitalization and 36,000 individuals dying from it.

  • The elderly, the young, and those with specific underlying health conditions (e.g. asthma, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease) are at risk of developing complications secondary to acquiring this illness. Some of these complications include pneumonia, sinus infections, and ear infections.

  • People may infect others before developing symptoms (usually 1 day before) and up to 5 days after becoming ill. And it can easily be spread by just a simple cough or sneeze.

  • There are 2 strains of influenza virus: A & B. And within each strain, there are different types (and sometimes even subtypes). What makes this virus difficult is it is constantly changing (which serves as the primary reason why we have a new influenza vaccine each year).


So what about this influenza vaccine?



  • There are two different types of vaccines. The "shot" is a non-live virus (AKA killed) vaccine. It is approved for infants 6 months of age to the elderly. The nasal-spray vaccine is made with a weakened live virus that does not cause the flu. It is now approved for those 2-49 years of age who are not pregnant or asthmatic.

  • The vaccine typically includes two A strains and one B strain.

  • Recommendations on who should get vaccinated when vaccine supply is not a concern include about everyone these days (as long as older than 6 months of age). Of note, this includes pregnant women and those with chronic medical conditions (as mentioned above).

  • And when should we get the vaccine? How about right now and on through the influenza season...which usually lasts until early Spring.

  • And without trying to bombard parents with too much information, for children 8 years of age and younger, the very first season will include two doses of the vaccine and not just one.


When is the vaccine not recommended?



  • Those with a significant allergy to chicken eggs

  • Anyone less than 6 months of age (as already mentioned above).

  • If someone is ill with a fever, he/she should wait until the illness resolves before receiving the vaccine.

  • Those who have either had a severe reaction in the past to the vaccine or those who developed Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS) within 6 weeks of getting the vaccine in previous years.


So now you have the information and I hope it impresses upon you the importance of influenza vaccination.  But if you are looking for more, I refer you to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website... http://www.cdc.gov/flu/.


Stay well.


 


Dr. Jeremy

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12
hey denisedies I too got the worst ever case of the flu the year I got the flu shot! I am sure there is no substantial light that could be shed on that and it will probably just be labeled a "coincidence" but its fairly common (if you don't ask a medical professional anyway)

My theory is that by immunizing yourself against the strain that is in the shot (the one deemed to be the most prevalent) you allow yourself to be more susceptable to the other strains or other subtypes that are discussed in the post. If you read up on serotype replacement (something that occurs within the bacterial vaccines, HiB prevnar etc) it kinda makes sence.

The flu shot is IMO another example of a really good "idea" that is mass marketed to make $$$. If the old and the immuno compromised (and really young I suppose although you couldn't pay me all the profits of the vaccine to shoot my kids up) are the only ones who are at risk of complications I don't see the need to have the entire population stand in line to get it.
By kegsmom  Nov 07, 2008
11
My Neuro siad I shouldn't get the Flu vaccine because I am taking Tysabri. Is ther any truth to this? I have always gotten the shot but this is the first year I have been on the Tysabri. Please let me know?? Thanks for your help!!!
By knittenmom  Oct 25, 2008
10
Well as I will not be giving the flu shot to my family. I don't really believe in the shot. I have a question for you..... I did get the shot about 9 years ago. That year that I got the shot was the worst case of the flu I have ever had. Just wondering if you could possibly shed some light on that. Thanks Denise
By DeniseDies  Sep 30, 2008
9
Dr. Jeremy, I have done some research on this area of the flu and have found an article that brings a different light of getting the influenza vaccination. Here is the study:

Prevention of Influenza Episodes With Colostrum Compared With Vaccination in Healthy and High-Risk Cardiovascular Subjects: The Epidemiologic Study in San Valentino
Clinical and Applied Thrombosis/Hemostasis
Vol. 13, No. 2, April 2007 130-136

I work for one of the world largest Colostrum manufactures in Phoenix, Arizona and I can tell you from other physicians that Colostrum works on any bacterial or viral infections....

Prior to antibiotics were made, physicians were using colostrum ..
By DrDev  Sep 28, 2008
8
Dr. Jeremy, Have you been following the work on Vitamin D levels and the flu? You can find an overview at the Vitamin D Council site (http://www.vitamindcouncil.org/). I find it pretty exciting stuff, although it is a bit depresing for those of us who live north of the Mason-Dixon line!

- PWSMom (Founder of Healing Autism group)
By PWSMom  Sep 25, 2008
7
If mercury is a concern in relation to the flu shot, there are mercury-free shots. They come in single-dose prefilled syringes. Call ahead to make sure they have it, and it does cost more than the regular shot.
By jordanc  Sep 20, 2008
6
"can autistic children get the flu vaccine? i was told not a good idea"

The flu shot is one of the only flu vaccines for children that still has a mercury based preservative. The link between mercury and autism has not been proven, but mercury poisoning induces many neurological symptoms that would make Autism worse, and I have seen studies that suggest that Autistic children do not eliminate mercury like normal children do.

The link between mercury and autism is not proven, but I would still be cautious. Personally I think there is a link.

You have to consider other sources of mercury though, like 'silver' fillings. If the mother has silver fillings that might be a more significant source than the vaccine. Also living near a coal burning power plant.
By Sentient  Sep 20, 2008
5
I got the shot at the drug store for $25 bucks! It didn't even hurt. I'm happy!
By CarolCupid  Sep 19, 2008
4
can autistic children get the flu vaccine? i was told not a good idea
By mightymo121646  Sep 19, 2008
3
I agree doc! It's a good idea to get the shot, not just for yourself, but for your family & friends. Sure would hate to think I exposed anyone to the flu, esp. if that person wasn't able to take the shot. Giving the flu to an elderly person can be a death sentence for them.

Only had the flu once, that was enough! A fever like I had then wouldn't do my MS any good.
By Lila4now  Sep 18, 2008
2
I dont think I will be getting any flu shots until they remove the mercury containing preservative from them. While its only a theory that thimerosil is linked to MS and other neurological conditions, it just cant be a healthy thing to put into your body. If there are any alternatives to mercury they should use them.

It is very difficult to prove a link, but very easy to use something different and less controversial as a preservative.
By Sentient  Sep 18, 2008
1
Hi Dr. Jeremy,
Many years ago (About 17 or 18 now) I had the flu vaccine. I have never felt so ill in my life. Within a few weeks I got the most absurdly sore legs - I was 21 and couldn't lift my legs in order to walk. I thought I had glandular fever, but the doctor did tests and said that I did not.

The sore legs went away, but I continued to feel most unwell. Then the left side of my face was paralysed. I was disgnosed with Bell's Palsy. It went away in about 10 days and I was fine after that - As in all better :-)

I had always thought the sore legs followed by the Bell's Palsy was a coincidence. I have also never had the flu shot again. After reading your article and reading up about GBS, I wonder if that wasn't what I had, in a very mild form of course. Not that it matters, but food for thought. I will, needless to say, not have the flu shot again in a hurry, though I think it is wonderful for those who do not have adverse reactions to it.

Cath
By ClaresMom  Sep 18, 2008
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