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virus

The annual question… do I take the flu shot?
do I take the flu shot? The Flu Virus penetrates the cells that line the respiratory tract and multiply by the thousands. Cells are destroyed and the new viruses infect neighboring cells exploding like a nuclear reaction. The infection proceeds unchecked for over a week until the immune system responds.

The idea of getting the flu shot bothers you, and you don’t like needles? Think about it from the Flu Virus’ point of view. The Flu Virus hates the flu shot.

The Flu Virus is an amazingly successful bug; it really gets around. Each winter there are outbreaks of Flu virus all around the world. The Center for Disease Control reports that every year in the United States, on average:
  • 5% to 20% of the population gets the flu;
  • more than 200,000 people are hospitalized from flu complications, and:
  • about 36,000 people die from flu
When we get a vaccine, our immune system has a chance to respond in a way that protects us from the true invading germ. Every decade or so, a brand new strain appears on the scene. In 1918, the so-called Spanish Flu caused a worldwide epidemic that killed over 20 million people. More people died from the Spanish Flu in the years 1918 to 1919 than have died from the AIDS virus in the last 20 years. Without the flu shot, the Flu Virus spreads easily.

It is amazing when you think about it... we can “train” our immune system to respond to the Flu Virus without being infected first. When we get a flu shot, we get a small amount of the Flu Virus. We do not get an actual virus, only a part of the outside wall of the virus. The immune system gets a chance to react to parts of the Flu Virus. After about 2 weeks, the immune system is ready… When the Flu Virus comes into the respiratory tract, the immune system springs to its defense. The Flu Virus is wiped out before it even gets started. We stay healthy. When we get the flu shot, we are protected from the Flu Virus. Because we are not infected, we do not infect others. The Flu Virus does not spread.
In a person who has not had the flu shot and has not had infections with similar Flu virus strains, the Flu Virus easily causes infection. In the winter, the flu virus is all around. Without knowing it, people spread it in the air when they breathe, talk, cough, and sneeze. Without knowing it, people spread it on their hands, on the objects they touch, and when we scratch or touch our eyes, nose or mouth we can become infected. The Flu Virus penetrates the cells that line the respiratory tract and multiply by the thousands. Cells are destroyed and the new viruses infect neighboring cells exploding like a nuclear reaction. The infection proceeds unchecked for over a week until the immune system responds. Antibodies and inflammatory cells finally kill the virus. The damage ends. The linings of the nose, sinuses, and lungs have been stripped bare by the ravages of the virus and are vulnerable to infection from new germs. If no additional infection takes place, the body heals and a new healthy lining of the respiratory tract is produced. Recovering from the Flu Virus, we may be tired and wheeze, but we get better. Our immune system has become smarter, and we are saved.

The Power of the Immune System
The body is always ready to confront invading bacteria. Germs penetrate the body’s outer surfaces thousands of times each day and we don’t even notice. Inflammatory cells attack, ingest, digest, and destroy bacteria. Immune cells scoop up germs, split them up in little parts and then bring them to other immune cells that creates the targeted cells and antibodies that make us immune to repeat attack.

Vaccines use the power of the immune system. When we get a vaccine, we get a weakened germ, a dead germ, or harmless pieces of the germ. When we get a vaccine, our immune system has a chance to respond in a way that protects us from the true invading germ. If enough people in society are immune, then even the weak and sick among us are protected because there are too few people to whom the germ can spread.

By using the power of the immune system, our body is better prepared to fight the germs around us. We stay healthy. Are you taking advantage of your immune power? Ask your doctor if there are vaccines that can protect your health.

Available Vaccines
  • The flu shot– Protection against influenza helps you and those around you stay healthy. Each year 36,000 people die from the flu. The flu shot is an inactivated vaccine approved for healthy people and people with chronic medical conditions over six months of age. The nasal-spray flu vaccine is a vaccine made with live, weakened flu viruses that do not cause the flu (sometimes called LAIV for “Live Attenuated Influenza Vaccine”). LAIV is approved for use in healthy people five years to 49 years of age who are not pregnant. The one exception is healthy persons who care for persons with severely weakened immune systems who require a protected environment; these healthy persons should get the inactivated vaccine (flu shot).
  • The pneumonia shot–This vaccine protects against 23 varieties of the most common germ that causes pneumonia. This germ “Streptococcus pneumoniae,” can invade the blood stream and can cause meningitis. It generally causes the most severe problems in people who have illnesses, which weakens their immune defenses. It is estimated that this germ causes more than 40,000 deaths in the United States each year. The vaccine is not perfect- but at least half of the deaths are preventable. Many doctors offer this vaccine every 5 – 6 years to those at highest risk. Tetanus shot–A new form of the tetanus shot prevents not only tetanus but also diphtheria and pertussis. Pertussis or whooping cough is surprisingly common in adults. It causes prolonged cough and can make babies seriously ill.
  • Measles– (MMR) At least one dose of Measles vaccine is needed for those born in 1957 or later. Vaccination against Measles is combined with vaccination against Mumps and Rubella. Pappillomavirus Vaccine (Quadravalent human Papillomavirus Vaccine-By providing protection against four common varieties of this virus, it is possible to prevent an estimated 70% of the 12,000 new cases of cervical cancer that occur each year. It is suggested that this vaccine be given to girls in early adolescence.




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"The annual question… do I take the flu shot?"
   authored by:
INFECTIOUS DISEASE
Dr. Hirsch is an Infectious Disease Specialist at North Shore University Hospital in New York where he is also Chairman of the Pharmacy and Therapeutics Committee. Dr. Hirsch received his medical degree from Cornell University Medical College. He is ...



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