Possible Life Saving Information
Would you be concerned if you were made aware of the existence of a very dangerous and contagious disease in your community and it was known that if a person became infected with this agent, the possible result could be a critical illness and even death? Also, if you were informed that a safe, effective, and affordable biologic agent was available that administered in a single dose would likely prevent you from becoming infected with this germ, would you take it? If you admitted concern, but because you were in good general health, you rejected taking the preventive agent, deciding that you would take your chances unprotected. Knowing that the bug is highly contagious, you might rationalize your decision with a plan to simply isolate yourself if you became ill, putting only yourself at risk. Perhaps this might be considered a defendable position except for the fact that if you do become infected, you could become contagious 3-4 days before you develop symptoms and not realize that you should isolate yourself. During this asymptomatic period of time, you could transmit the infection throughout the community as well as to family and friends. You might survive the illness, but not without 7-10 days of misery and being dysfunctional. However, any person that you passed the infection to, might not be so fortunate and your decision to reject the preventive agent made you the vector that caused significant harm to someone else.
Some of you reading this article may have determined by now that this scenario is not hypothetical but a reality because we are currently nearing the peak of the seasonal influenza (Flu) out-break that creates the situation as described.
Information from the federal Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reveals that Georgia is one of the top two states ranked by prevalence rate or the number of people infected with the Flu virus. Typically, the Flu season extends into the spring, last year subsiding in late April. CDC data also shows that the most common viral strain (type) causing illness nationally is one that has relatively lower virulence (lethal tendency) but the strain most common in Georgia is one of the most virulent. Having said that, any strain can take down even the healthiest person. A case report last year describes a very healthy 15 y/o female gymnast who died from the Flu.
The best treatment for the Flu is prevention with the vaccine (flu shot). The Flu vaccine was developed and marketed over 80 years ago and over the years since that time, the vaccine has become safer and more effective. The influenza virus can be one of the deadliest vaccine-preventable diseases in the world. Prior to the availability of the vaccine, an influenza pandemic occurred in 1918 and over 20% of the world-wide population became infected and 10% of these people died (estimated to be 50 million people). Last year over 80% of flu-related deaths occurred in people who were not vaccinated.
Because of the variability in the influenza strains each season and the ability of the virus to mutate (change genetic make-up), the effectiveness of the vaccine each year is inconsistent, but any benefit at all is worthwhile because it is very safe with minimal risk. The older vaccines were made from intact but “crippled” viral cells so there was a slight chance that after injection the virus could recover and replicate causing the Flu. Current vaccines are made only of particles from dead viruses; therefore, it is impossible for the vaccine to cause the Flu. A small percentage of people can experience a type of allergic reaction to the vaccine’s preservatives resulting in symptoms that mimic a mild flu-like illness that is short-lived. Also, there has been a previous problem in patients who have an egg allergy but there are currently vaccines available that contain no egg substances and are safe for these people.
In recent years, there has been a weak association between the Flu vaccine and a neurologic disorder GB (Gillian-Barre Syndrome). Population studies have revealed a very small increase in the expected incidence of GB in people who receive the Flu vaccine, but a cause and effect relationship has not been established. Interestingly, there is a higher risk of GB after a Flu infection compared to the vaccination.
The CDC and most infectious disease experts recommend the Flu vaccine for everyone over 6 months of age. It is not too late because a protective immune response occurs in about 2 weeks.
Despite the facts presented, estimates are that only 40% of adults and 60% of children get the vaccine. So, come on folks, be responsible to yourself, your family and friends and your community. Get a Flu vaccine now!
Dr. Tippett is founder of Comprehensive Quality Healthcare Providers, a concierge internal medicine practice, located at 1210 Commerce Dr. Greensboro, Ga. 30642. He can be reached at 706-510-3659. Visit his webpage at www.drtippett.com