As flu season approaches, we are reminded of the need for annual immunizations. For example, flu shots. The influenza vaccine represents one of the several immunizations that the Center for Disease Control and others recommend some adults and children receive. These vaccines help the body’s defenses to become sensitive to particular bacteria or virus. As a result, the immune system is prepared to fight off the infection before it can take hold.
The influenza vaccine protects the body against specific strains of the influenza virus. Each year the Center for disease control develops a vaccine based on what they think will be the predominant and most serious flu viruses that year. Although not 100% accurate every year, the vaccine has been very successful and decreasing the number of deaths and miss workdays each year related to the flu. In recent flu epidemics, at least 10,000 deaths have been reported. Much of this might be preventable if people are immunized annually. This is especially important for folks over for 65 years of age or those of any age with certain underlying illnesses. However, in 1989, only 30% of people over 65 received the vaccine.
If you’re wondering if you need the vaccine, talk to your doctor. Pneumococcal streptococcus is a bacteria that has been implicated in pneumonia and meningitis. Pneumococcal disease causes approximately 40,000 deaths per year with most of these deaths occurring in the elderly or in persons with long-term diseases. Pneumococcal vaccine is recommended for a person 65 years or older who have chronic illnesses or week immune system’s and possibly other groups.
The two currently licensed pneumococcal vaccines have the potential to provide protection against 23 different types of the bacteria that cause most cases of pneumococcal infection. Diphtheria is a very serious disease. It can make a person unable to breathe, cause paralysis or heart failure. About one out of every ten people who get to Diptheria dies of it. Tetanus, sometimes called “lockjaw”, is a very serious disease that can occur after a cut or wound gets the germ into the body. Tennis makes a person unable to open his or her mouth or swallow and causes serious muscle spasms. In the United States, tetanus kills three out of every 10 people who get the disease. Not many cases of tetanus or diphtheria occur in the United States because people have immunizations that can protect them. Booster doses are recommended for both of these as adults. If you think you need a dip Syria or tennis immunization, speak with your doctor.
It is recommended to be vaccinated every 10 years for these. I encourage you to talk with your doctor about these and other immunizations available for adults. Julie L. Reihsen M.D. is a family practice physician and owner of Dallas Family Medical in Addison, Texas.