Why We Think Flu Vax Gives Us Flu (But We’re Wrong)

17 12 2015

My Uncle Wayne will swear that, in 2008, he was vaccinated against flu and within a week was laid up in bed with—yes—a case of flu.

A lot of us believe that getting the flu vaccine will infect us with flu, and here’s why that idea is so common (and so wrong):

Reason 1
The flu vaccine takes about two weeks to become effective in our bodies. If we’re exposed to a flu virus anytime just before or after our vaccination, our bodies are on their own.

Getting vaccinated and then getting the flu . . . it’s really just a matter of timing. Coincidence. The two events happen around the same time – getting vaccinated against flu and getting infected with flu – but one doesn’t cause the other.

Reason 2
Around this time of year, flu is what we hear about. The public health people are out in full force to get us vaccinated against the prevailing flu viruses. It’s called cold and flu season, but flu is the star.

But, there are cold germs and other viruses floating around that cause symptoms similar to flu symptoms. Our default thinking is that we have flu, but the reality may be that we have a bad cold, which also stinks, but is not influenza. So, it’s a misdiagnosis.

Reason 3
There are many flu viruses floating around the world. Each year, the World Health Organization and others try to determine which viruses will be dominant during that particular flu season. Sometimes they’re wrong, and the available flu vaccines, which were made to fight those specific flu viruses, don’t do a good job of protecting us from what’s really out there.

Reason 4
No vaccine protects 100 percent of the people 100 percent of the time. It’s possible to get vaccinated against the flu strains currently in your area and still end up with flu because, for whatever reason, the vaccine simply did not protect you.

Reason 5
You cannot get flu from the flu vaccine because it’s made to prevent that very thing from happening.

The flu vaccines that are delivered through a needle are made from totally dead flu viruses, or tiny specks of deconstructed flu viruses.

There is not a spark of infectivity left in them.

The flu vaccine that is sprayed up the nose has live flu virus in it. But, and it’s a big-sized but, the virus in this vaccine is weakened to such an extent that it can’t make you be sick.

So there we are.

The flu vaccines protect many people. Getting vaccinated is a good idea, and one you should discuss with your provider.

To help prevent infection, get vaccinated as we discussed, and keep your hands clean all day. Try not to touch your mouth, nose, or eyes with hands that might not be clean. Those areas are prime spots for disease transmission.

See you on the other side of cold and flu season!

 

 

by Trish Parnell





EV-D68

8 09 2014

There’s a virus in the US that’s sending kids to the hospital. Symptoms are similar to a severe cold. The virus is called human enterovirus 68 (EV-D68).

This virus affects the respiratory system, which is made up of the organs and tissues that let us breathe, including our airways (nose, mouth, windpipe), our lungs, and many other bits that work to keep us breathing.

EV-D68 was not a common culprit of respiratory disease until about 2009. That’s when the virus started to be identified with outbreaks in different parts of the world.

There are many strains or types of enteroviruses, and they are frequently the cause of our colds. This particular strain, EV-D68, is causing colds, but there are an unusual number of hospitalizations with this infection. Symptoms include coughing and difficulty breathing, which is what’s sending some people to the hospital. In addition, some people may have wheezing, a fever, or rash.

Those with existing respiratory issues, such as asthma, may find their symptoms more severe, as they do with any respiratory infection.

IMPORTANT POINT: This virus isn’t typically life-threatening, and although some who are infected will find themselves battling severe symptoms, most will experience only a mild cold.

There’s no vaccine available. We need to do what we always do to prevent colds—clean our hands throughout the day and keep our hands off of our face, as germs enter through our nose, mouth, and eyes. If someone offers you a bite of their spaghetti or a drink of their soda, politely refuse. Get your own spaghetti and drink.

And CDC reminds us that it’s important to disinfect surfaces (doorknobs, keyboards) to zap those germs where they sit.

It’s scary for parents to hear about kids being hospitalized, but if we practice basic disease prevention methods, we’ll help our families avoid this and other viruses that cause colds.





Stay Healthy This Winter!

30 09 2013

Stay Healthy This Winter

Click here for larger image!





Cold + Dry = Flu

26 11 2012

My middle schooler loves to report on the various illnesses of her classmates. On any given day, she says that half of those children not in school are suffering from flu—self-reported, but still.

They may be too sick for school, but they do manage the brave yet desperate text now and again to share their misery with their friends.

I doubt that all of these kids have influenza, but some probably do. As much as it irritates me, I have to admit that my mother was right about cold weather being a factor in catching a virus. At least she was right about the flu virus.

Turns out, influenza is transmitted more easily in cold, dry weather.

Dr. Peter Palese and colleagues did a study and found that it wasn’t the kids crowding together in school that caused a run of flu, because they’re in school in September and May and there’s no flu in the northern hemisphere at that time.

Dr. Palese also found that there’s little flu in the tropics, where it’s hot and humid.

What the scientists discovered was that the flu virus is most easily transmitted in cold, dry weather.

Unlike the cold virus, which is transmitted by touch (direct contact), for instance through a handshake, the flu virus floats in the air and is inhaled. The colder and drier the air, the longer the virus can float and stay viable.

Another factor is that the lower humidity dries out our nasal passages, which allows the inhaled virus to stick more easily than when we have our nasal barriers up and functioning properly.

A warning: temperatures don’t have to plummet to 10⁰ F for the virus to stay viable. The study indicated that 40⁰ F was more than adequate for excellent transmission of the virus.

So what can you do? Get vaccinated to prevent influenza, and keep your hands clean and away from your mucous membranes (around the gums, eyeballs, and nose) to prevent the transmission of other germs.

And wait for spring!

By Trish Parnell

Image courtesy of Atomische





Antibiotics and When to Use Them

30 07 2012

Summer has its share of illnesses, but for most physicians, the “illness season” begins to ramp up in the fall. Colds, sore throats and ear infections, among other illnesses, are much more common.

Patients come to the doctor’s to get better, and for many years that has meant leaving the office with a prescription for antibiotics. Many illnesses were treated unnecessarily, and as a result, antibiotic resistance has increased.

Antibiotics first came into widespread use in the 1940s and revolutionized medical care. Bacterial illnesses, such as pneumonia, strep throat, bladder infections, etc. could now be treated. Within a few years, however, bacteria resistant to penicillin were already present.

Antibiotics kill sensitive bacteria, but resistant ones can survive and multiply. Through the years, antibiotics that used to work for infections become less effective.

While antibiotics work against bacteria, they do not treat viruses. Viruses cause the majority of infections (colds, many sore throats, influenza, most coughs). In many cases, however, antibiotics are prescribed for viruses. This leads to increasing bacterial resistance.

Why are antibiotics overused? The answer is multi-fold. Parents often come to the office with an expectation that they will be given something to make their child better. Doctors want to help people.

In the early years of my practice, it was common to treat for an “early” ear infection, or sometimes, “to head off the illness.” Our knowledge of the natural history of illnesses has advanced. We used to think that if a cold produced yellow or green drainage, this was an indicator of sinus/bacterial infection. Now we know that discolored drainage is a normal part of an illness that may last 10-14 days. Some ear infections will clear up on their own. Sore throats that are not caused by strep do not need an antibiotic.

When antibiotics are needed, the most specific antibiotic is best. Some antibiotics are “broad spectrum.” They kill many bacteria, not just the ones causing the infection. Many of these are newer antibiotics, and while they might be more convenient, taste better, etc, they may be more than is needed, hastening antibiotic resistance.

The advantages of using antibiotics wisely are many. Short term, there will be fewer side effects (diarrhea, rashes, stomach ache), and long term, hopefully, when antibiotics are needed for a serious bacterial infection, they will be more effective.

So, when your doctor says, “Good news, they don’t need an antibiotic,” it really is good news.

By Dr. Katherine Vaughn

Image courtesy of AJC1





Hypothermia Can Happen Anytime

27 02 2012

Dr Mary Beth Koslap-Petraco, PKIDs’ advice nurse practitioner, says hypothermia can happen anytime of year, and it’s nothing to mess around with. What to do and not do, should it happen to you.

Listen now!

Right-click here to download podcast (6 min/3 mb)





RSV – Not Always Simple

14 11 2011

Almost all kids in the United States are infected with RSV by the time they’re two years of age. In adults and older kids and teens, the symptoms resemble your basic cold, and for most babies and toddlers, it’s not a serious infection, but it’s capable of great nastiness.

Respiratory syncytial (sin-SISH-ul) virus, or RSV, was identified in 1956 and is the usual suspect in “lung and airway infections in infants and young children.”

It’s a contagious virus — spreads easily through droplets that infected people cough or sneeze into the air. Those droplets that aren’t inhaled by others land on surfaces, which are then touched by unsuspecting individuals. The germ gets on people’s hands and infects them when they touch their noses or mouths.

The virus is no lightweight. It can survive for at least 30 minutes on one’s hands, nearly five hours on surfaces, and even longer on contaminated tissues.

Symptoms are similar to cold symptoms, and may include:

  • Wheezing
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Cough
  • Stuffy or runny nose
  • Fever

There is a simple and quick test for RSV that clinics can run. Because it’s a virus, antibiotics don’t work against it, and most of the time, there is no treatment because the symptoms will be no worse than those of a mild cold.

But, more severe infections can lead to pneumonia, bronchiolitis, lung failure, and a host of related problems. If a baby or toddler (or anyone, really) has difficulty breathing, get them to a hospital. There they will be treated for their symptoms and treatment may include oxygen, IV, or even a ventilator.

To stop transmission of RSV, pertussis (whooping cough), colds, flu and many other infections, cover your coughs and sneezes, wash hands frequently and thoroughly, don’t swap spit with others, and don’t share forks, cups, straws, or anything else that’s been in your mouth.

There’s no vaccine for RSV, but there is a drug that can be given monthly to those kids at high risk of severe illness. Check with your provider about this preventive option, and if your young one has any symptoms that would lead you to suspect RSV or any other infection, it never hurts to take him in for a visit.

By Trish Parnell

Video courtesy of  TheDoctorsVideos