Monday, October 20, 2008

Why you should get a flu shot

It's that time of year again when we are headed into flu season. This is my view of why you and your children should get a flu shot. I know my kids hate getting them, and I will admit I procrastinate it myself.

Those most at risk of dying from the flu are the elderly and the young. Most of the elderly are immunized, but have a hard time mounting an adequate immune response to the immunization. Children mount a good immune response to the flu shot or flu mist. Children less then 6 mo are too young to get it. Making sure older children are immunized will help protect young infants. Children pass the flu more then any other population. The best way to protect grandparents and great grandparents is to immunize children.

The flu is becoming more and more resistant to the anti-virals given for the flu. When given they really don't do much for the person who is sick, they do make you less contagious to other people.

The flu pandemic of 1918 killed 20-50 million people worldwide. It was especially targeted to the lungs and caused swelling and bleeding in the lungs. It killed many otherwise healthy people because they would mount a good response to the flu and send lots of cells that would ordinarily help fight off bugs, but in the case of the flu of 1918 with 40,000 times more viral particles than normal flu, those cells that would normally fight the virus (cytokines, macrophages) just helped to destroy architecture of the lungs and made them sicker. Those people who were originally well sent even more cells to fight off the infection and died in 24-48 hours. People basically drowned. There is still no medical intervention to stop that process once it has begun. The H5N1 avian bird flu seems to be very similar to the Spanish flu of 1918 in animals. Although it is most likely to happen in a pandemic setting this year, this sort of thing still kills about 20,000 people a year.

I know the flu shot doesn't always cover the strain that is currently infecting people. Often times there are multiple strains and the vaccine covers most of the strains but not one or two. It is impossible to predict how the virus will mutate, but the best educated guess is made. Even if the vaccine doesn't cover 100% of the current strains, it still decreases your chances by 50% of getting the flu.

Stay healthy, protect those around you. Get a flu shot.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Not Uncommon

When I was in my first or second year of medical school I remember hearing one of my professors or clinical faculty saying "not uncommon" about something  associated with a condition.  I thought it was the stupidest thing I had ever heard.  "Why don't they just say rare?"  I thought to my self.  Now 6 years after residency, I find myself saying "not uncommon" all the time.  Turns out it's the perfect thing to say when something is not common and not rare, but indeed not uncommon.  

Say for example your infant has conjunctivitis (pink eye), it is not uncommon for them to have an ear infection as well.  If not common, meaning most, but not rare.  Getting a rash with a viral illness or a viral exanthem is not uncommon.  

I was inspired to write a blog by Stephanie Nielson "Nie Nie Dialogues" . She is my sister-in-law's sister-in-law.  I hope to write about the things in life that are not uncommon; they may not happen daily, but they are not rare.  Some medicine, some motherhood, some marriage, some life.