Optimism may be the best flu vaccine

With the holidays now upon us, the influenza season will be in full throttle with social get-togethers everywhere helping to spread the germs. One predictor of how bad the season (October through May) will be is the continent of Australia which just suffered through an ugly influenza outbreak. Differing from the U.S., however, is the fact that Aussies only encourage high risk-groups to get their flu shots. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone over 6 months be vaccinated.

Wall Street Journal’s Sumathi Reddy informs, “If we’ve been exposed to a similar strain of the virus in the previous season, it might lessen the burden this year.”

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, says he does believe this year’s chosen vaccine is well-matched to 2017-2018’s expected virus. But this is an imprecise science that can produce a flu virus that can and does mutate (change quickly). WebMD tells us the flu shot will take two weeks to become effective. If you haven’t already done so, now is the time to get that vaccination!

Humans are infected mainly by the A and B flu viruses with the A viruses (H1N1 and H3N2) being the more serious form. H3N2 strain typically causes more deaths and hospitalizations, especially among the elderly with existing problems. Two stronger vaccines are now recommended for those over the age of 65. While our Centegra Health Center located in Prairie Lodge is already sold out of their high dose vaccine and will not be getting anymore, Osco (located at the North End of the Jewel Store directly across from Sun City) has a full supply of its Fluzone High-Dose Vaccine at present. Anik Dharia, Osco Pharmacy Manager, explained, “A pharmacist, myself included, will provide the vaccine (expensed to medicare) during regular hours of 9 a.m. until 8 p.m., on Mondays through Fridays, and 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. on Saturdays.” Dharia also noted that Pneumonia shots are available for seniors with an added cost not picked up by Medicare.

Dr. Dan Jernigan, head of the CDC, explained that while flu vaccines have improved in recent years, “Still, their effectiveness widely varies depending on the year. At best, they prevent the flu in 60% of recipients.”

Disappointing coverage rates of only 46.8% of last year’s eligible population in the U.S. contributed to this prevention number. A recent study of 138 adults, between the ages of 65 and 85 and performed at the University of Nottingham/England, found that on the day of receiving the shot, people who practiced an upbeat mood, aided by exercise and good sleep patterns, produced the most antibodies to fight the viruses.

Let’s practice this same optimism and good health habits throughout the holidays! Happy Thanksgiving!

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