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October 24, 2020
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The Wealth of Health

George Malkemus
COVID-19 And the flu: Good time for the yearly flu vaccine
October 9, 2020

COVID-19 infections continue worldwide, including recently President Trump and his wife Melania.  Last week the U.S. reached over 200,000 deaths with over one million worldwide.  Meanwhile, many individuals are avoiding medical and dental treatment and regular check-ups, which is leading to worsening of medical and dental ailments. This is leading to sickness and even deaths, which are preventable. Undiagnosed and untreated disease greatly increases the risk from COVID-19. 

So, what can be done to alleviate the risk of COVID-19 and series illness for yourself, your love ones and any person that you encounter?  Wear masks, social distance, wash hands and cough or sneeze into mask or cloth.  Seek treatment immediately and refrain from work or interactions with others whenever sick.  Get tested when sick or concerned, especially with a recent loss of smell or taste.  Have regular medical checkups and dental exams and cleanings.   Get the flu shot and other important vaccinations.       

Poor air quality with the awful smoke from the terrible fires and the threat of COVID-19, makes the flu seems like of little concern.  But flu season is just around the corner. The flu season is from November to April, with most cases occurring between late December and early March.  But by getting the shot before the flu season is in full force, the body has a chance to build up immunity to the flu virus.  It takes about six weeks after getting the flu shot to be fully protected.  The flu vaccine is already available, and I received the flu shot last week. I also received a current pneumonia vaccine.

So now is a good time to get your annual flu shot and avoid the misery of flu symptoms later this winter.  When added to the effects of COVID-19, it is even more important to get the flu shot.

If you haven’t had the flu lately, you may have forgotten just how miserable it can make you feel. But there’s more to fear than fever, fatigue and nagging aches and pains. From 5 to 20 percent of the US population gets the flu every year, with 200,000 hospitalized and 36,000 deaths. The very young, the elderly and those with existing medical conditions are the most vulnerable to the flu.  

Who should typically get the flu shot?

Health officials recommend that all adults and children over age of six months of age, with few exceptions, get a flu vaccine. The goal is to stop the spread of the flu by vaccinating everyone, particularly children. The highest rate of the flu is found with school age children, who then spread the disease to the more vulnerable age groups, the elderly and the young. 

Certain individuals are high risk for flu symptoms and should most definitely get a yearly flu vaccine.  High-risk individuals included:

    * High-risk children – check with your pediatrician

    * Everyone 50 years of age or older

    * Pregnant women

    * Those who have chronic lung or heart disorders. Among people with heart disease, the flu can lead to viral or bacterial pneumonia that can trigger potentially deadly heart-related complications. 

    * Those who have chronic diseases such as diabetes mellitus, kidney disease, severe anemia, or immune deficiency including HIV/AIDS.

    * Residents of nursing homes and other facilities that care for people with chronic medical conditions

    * Health care workers and other employees of hospitals and nursing homes

    * Police, firefighters and other public safety workers

    * Out-of-home caregivers and household contacts of anyone in any of the high-risk groups

People who should not get a flu shot include:

    *Anyone with active COVID-19

    * Anyone with a fever or sickness 

    * Anyone who's severely allergic to eggs and egg products (ingredients for flu shots are grown inside eggs)

    * Infants under six months old

    * Anyone who's ever had a severe reaction to a flu vaccination (although most people do not experience any side effects from the flu shot)

    * Anyone with Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS), a rare condition that affects the immune system and nerves

 A high-dose flu shot is recommended for people 65 and older to provide additional protection using 4 inactivated flu stains compared to three used in the regular dose.  Ninety percent of flu-related deaths are found in individuals who are age 65 and older.  Also note that the cost of the high-dose flu shot is totally covered if you have Medicare.  

How the flu shot works

Given as an injection, the flu shot contains killed flu viruses that will not cause the flu but will prepare the body to fight off infection by the live flu virus. Getting a shot of the killed virus means a person is protected against that particular type of live flu virus when he/she makes contact with a contagious individual. 

The flu shot is needed yearly.  The flu protection wears off yearly since the flu virus is constantly changing. That's why the vaccine is updated each year to include the most current strains of the virus.

In any given flu season, vaccine effectiveness varies.  The influenza virus itself is totally unpredictable from one year to the next, so the vaccine effectiveness depends on its match to the prevalent year’s viruses, as well as, the general health of the recipient.

In most years, the flu vaccine reduces the average person's chances of catching the flu by up to 80 percent during the season. Because the vaccine only prevents infection with some of the common yearly viruses that can cause flu-like symptoms, it isn't a 100 percent guarantee against getting sick. However, usually the flu symptoms will be fewer, short lasting and milder after a flu shot. 

Side effects

Most people do not experience any side effects from the flu shot. Some of those vaccinated may have soreness or swelling at the site of the injection or mild side effects, such as headache or low-grade fever.  Although these side effects may last for a day, the flu can make you seriously sick for two to three weeks or longer. Also, serious complications such as pneumonia, ear infections, sinus infections and other respiratory problems can occur from the flu. Rarely, will the flu shot cause serious side effects.  The occurrence of complications from the flu itself is a much greater risk.  I have never had any negative reaction or even soreness from the flu vaccination, including this year in which I had the flu shot in my right arm and the pneumonia shot in my left at the same appointment.

A common myth about the flu shot is that it can actually cause the flu. But the flu shot used in the United States is made from killed influenza viruses, which means that it's impossible to catch the flu by receiving it. 

Other vaccinations

Many other vaccinations are recommended on a ten-year booster schedule: 

  * Tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis (whooping cough)

  * Measles, mumps, rubella

  * Chickenpox

  * Pneumococcal

  * Hepatitis A

  * Hepatitis B

  * Meningococcal

The shingle’s vaccination is recommended for individuals over 60 years old.

Contact your physician for more details regarding your vaccination needs. 

Bottom line:  One of the best ways to protect your health is with a yearly flu vaccine and keeping up with booster vaccinations.  I have been getting the flu shot every year for the past 35 years and I have rarely become ill during the flu season, even though I am in close quarters with people every day in my dental practice.

And please follow through with medical and dental treatment!  Stay Safe!

 

Enjoy Life and Keep Smiling!

 

George Malkemus has a Family and Cosmetic Dental Practice in Rohnert Park at 2 Padre Parkway, Suite 200. Call 585-8595, or email info@ malkemusdds.com.  Visit Dr. Malkemus’ Web site at http://www.malkemusdds.com