nos-trum. pronunciation: \nos'-trum\. noun. Etymology: Latin, neuter of noster our, ours.
1. a medicine of secret composition recommended by its preparer but usually without scientific proof of its effectiveness.
2. a usually questionable remedy or scheme.
See here for more discussion.

Monday, December 13, 2010

First Fatalities Reported This Year From H1N1 (Swine) Flu

"I got the shot last year, so I'm OK, right?"  Wrong.

The reporting so far is that H1N1's impact this year will be typical for seasonal influenza.  The people who were particularly at risk last year are the same:  pregnant women, small children.

I saw an article from the UK that of the first several hundred cases of influenza reported, 18% are due to H1N1.  The experts don't think that there will be more cases, or new and more severe forms, at this time.

But I occasionally run across people who claim what's quoted above.

The error?  The flu shot doesn't last long.  Yes, there are some immunizations that provide very long immunity.  We used to think that smallpox vaccination conferred lifelong immunity.  That's now been called into question.  Tetanus lasts a decade in most people, although with a really dirty cut, it's recommended that a booster be given earlier than that.  In the military, we used to get the typhoid shot every three years, which I hated:  I took two aspirin at the time of the shot, because I got fever and chills for a day or so.  Annoying.

But, flu is different.  The complex interaction of the flu agent--and the preparation from it that goes into the shot--and our immune system doesn't lead to a similar enduring immunity.  It has to do with how long our system will make antibodies to a particular virus, or a closely related strain of it, when no further exposure is present to spur on the process.  This is called "immunologic memory."  That is, how long the body will "remember" the disease and keep its guard up.  With no "reminder," memory fades.

With many viruses (like the common cold), after a while memory fades and the immune system loses its protective stance, antibodies fade.  We're back to square one.

And you have to get a new shot to get back in shape to defeat the disease.

So, don't assume that since you got the H1N1 last year that you have protection this year.  Plus, the flu shot protects against other strains that are expected to be floating around this year.

Do my a favor and correct anyone you hear say they don't need it.

Doc D

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