Flu season’s right around the corner | VailDaily.com

Flu season’s right around the corner

Dr. Drew Werner

EAGLE COUNTY – Do you have an itis? Did you catch it, or did someone give it to you? Well, I hope you do not have one. But if you do, how is it? I am guessing there are not a lot of kind words going through your head right now. Any medical term ending in itis means inflammation. Today, I am really referring to that miserable inflammation caused by infections. Sinusitis, bronchitis, gastroenteritis, otitis, pharyngitis, bronchiolitis, respiratoryitis (just kidding about that last one). There sure is a lot of itis going around right now. If one good thing can be said it is that there is nothing like feeling terrible to help us appreciate feeling well. When it comes to our respiratory system the cause of an itis is usually a virus or bacteria. Good hand washing helps a lot. But for the most notorious of the viruses that make us ill, there is another option.Dear Doc: I’ve heard flu season is coming again. Will I be able to get a shot this year? Should everyone in my family get one?- Staying Healthy in EagleDear Staying Healthy: Perfect timing! Flu season is almost here and it is time to strengthen our defenses. The flu actually refers to influenza types A and B. There is an Influenza type C, but it does not cause significant illness in humans. Many people call a variety of viral infections, including intestinal ones, the flu. But the real thing is Influenza type A and B. No virus has had a more significant impact upon humanity. From the past to the present, the facts are astounding:An influenza type illness was first described by Hypocrates in 400B.C.- The world’s most significant death toll from a viral illness occurred during the Spanish flu pandemic from 1917 to 1919. More than 20 million people died, surpassing the entire death total from World War I!- According to the Centers for Disease Control, an average of 36,000 people die from the flu each year in the United States. This nearly equals the death total in automobile accidents. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 42,000 people died as a result of a motor vehicle accident in 2001.- Over 114,000 people are hospitalized every year as a result of the flu.- Despite these alarming numbers, influenza vaccine rates remain low. On average, only 66 percent of people who should be vaccinated actually receive the vaccine.- People who receive the flu vaccine have a 50 percent reduction in death rates from all causes compared to those who don’t get vaccinated.The best medicine is prevention, and the best prevention is vaccination. The flu vaccine is effective against both influenza type A and B. Because the flu moves around the world scientists, track it in order to predict which mutation will be most active in any given year. They usually do an excellent job in developing vaccines that work. Although not perfect, the flu vaccine is 70 to 90 percent effective in the general population. Unlike measles, mumps or rubella, the flu changes each year, so yearly vaccination is necessary. The vaccine will be available for everyone this year, but certain groups of people are identified as high-risk. It is especially important that people in this high-risk category get vaccinated. People in this group include:- All children aged 6 to 23 months. – All adults aged 65 years and older. – All women who are or will be pregnant during the flu season. – Residents in nursing homes and long-term care facilities. – Individuals aged 2 to 64 years who have long-term health problems. – Children aged 6 months to 18 years who are on chronic aspirin therapy. – Health care workers who have direct contact with patients. – Care-givers and household contacts of children less than 6 months of age.Other groups of people who should seriously consider getting vaccinated against the flu are those who can transmit influenza to those at high-risk, as well as breastfeeding mothers. If you have ever suffered through the 10 to 14 days of the flu, I am sure you will be among the first in line to get vaccinated. The best time to get a flu shot is now through November. Even if you are a late decision-maker, it is still a good idea to get a flu shot even after the flu has hit. As long as supplies are available, February (typically the worst flu month) and even March are not too late. While the flu vaccine is recommended for nearly anyone over 6 months old, there are a few people who should not be vaccinated. These include:- People who have had an allergic reaction to a flu shot in the past. – People with an allergy to eggs. – People who previously developed Guillain-Barre syndrome within six weeks of getting a flu shot.Next week I’ll keep talking about the flu and and what to do if you get it! Till then, keep enjoying our beautiful fall, wash your hands and stay healthy!Remember your health is your responsibility! Health is our greatest asset and it doesn’t happen by accident. If something doesn’t seem right, or questions are left unanswered don’t wait, call your doctor.Dr. Drew Werner of the Eagle Valley Medical Center writes a weekly column for the Daily. He encourages health questions. Write him by e-mail to editor@vaildaily.com or c/o Editor, Vail Daily, P.O. Box 81, Vail, 81658.Vail, Colorado

Support Local Journalism