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Flu -- Worse than Ebola for People Living in Our Community - Dr. Tayloe

Posted: 11/17/2014

If we had a vaccine for Ebola, our offices would be overrun with people clamoring for the vaccine.  Yet, it is unlikely that we will have significant numbers of people who die this winter in our community from Ebola.

However, there will be many deaths from flu, especially among those who are elderly, disabled, or who suffer with chronic disease such as congestive heart failure, asthma, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD, emphysema).  Babies who are too young to receive the immunization are also at high risk to die if they become infected with the flu virus.

National medical authorities recommend that all of us who are over the age of 6 months of age should receive the flu vaccine, as soon as it becomes available in our communities.  At this time, flu vaccine is available in doctors' offices, the local health department, and local pharmacies.  The inactivated injectable vaccine can be given to all people.  The attenuated live viral nasal mist vaccine can be given to people between the ages of 2  and 49 years who do not have a chronic medical problem, like persistent asthma.  Ask your doctor about how you can receive flu vaccine.

As I interact with families every day in our practice, the most common reason that people refuse the vaccine is concern that the vaccine will make them get sick or come down with the flu.  I have never read a scientific report that showed that there is any way for the flu vaccine to cause one to come down with the flu.  I have never seen a patient who developed any serious complication from receiving the flu vaccine.  The reason people think the flu vaccine has made them sick, is that we do not start giving flu vaccine until the weather is cool and we are having lots of sickness in the community.  It seems that people want to blame the flu vaccine for anything that happens to them during the days to weeks after they receive flu vaccine.  So this is a "true-true, but unrelated" situation:  true, the person received flu vaccine, and true, the person became ill during the days to weeks after receiving the vaccine, but these two events are unrelated.  

I have been practicing medicine long enough to see patients develop life-threatening and disabling complications from flu.  My adult medicine colleagues have seen many of their elderly, disabled, and chronically ill patients die from flu. 

The reason we all need to receive flu vaccine every year is to protect the less fortunate among us from getting infected with the flu virus.  If we all receive the vaccine, then we are unlikely to have a significant flu epidemic in our community, and those at-risk people in our families and community are less likely to die from coming down with the flu.  This is all about public health, and our commitment to having the healthiest community possible.

So, as we read the daily reports about the Ebola epidemic in Africa, and fret about the possibility that Ebola will invade the US, we must remember that flu is an immediate threat to the health of our community. 

Thanks for making sure that you and all your loved ones receive the flu vaccine as soon as possible.


Dave Tayloe, Jr., MD, FAAP

Goldsboro Pediatrics, PA

November 15, 2014

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