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GET YOUR VACCINES

Odler Robert Jeanlouie, MD








Let us look at it. The flu is not as terrible as lung cancer. True. You get sick, you cough, spit, sneeze, vomit for a week. Often you take a few sick days from work drinking soup, watching TV, wiping your nose at home. Then it is over. But there is a big problem with this perception: it is not that easy for everyone. Importantly, what you had, as described above, may not have been the flu, which is a viral disease caused by the influenza virus A and B. It may have been any kind of garden variety upper respiratory infections (URI) mostly caused by inconsequential, evanescent virus that create more fear than damage. The real flu is a serious, acute, violent blight that kills people. A new strain comes around every year, and unless you are vaccinated, you are not immune to it; everyone is susceptible. If I tell you that 25 million people died during the first decade of the 20th century, you will immediately jump to the intellectual conclusion that the toll is related to the casualties of World I (1914-1918). Wrong. In fact, 35 million people died during the four years of violence of World War I, but 25 million additional people died during the flu epidemic of 1918-1919, in one year, which, by all statistics, seems to have been a catastrophe as terrible as the World War. You may do well with the flu because you are a young and healthy adult, but older people (your grandma), small children (your nieces and nephews), your friends and colleagues who have poor immunity due to HIV, cancer, renal failure, may fare miserably because you have passed the virus onto them. They may be among the half-million people who die every year from this so-called benign disease that peaks during the winter months. Unfortunately, if the flu is perceived as benign, there is no benign death. It is fall, winter is in ten weeks, please take your flu vaccine. While you are at it, remember your other immunizations. Immunization is cheap, it saves lives, it keeps you at work, it prevents complications from other diseases that you have or will have, it curbs visits to the doctor, it avoids hospitalization, it is less burdensome than a funeral. Influenza, every year, mostly if you are over 50. Pneumococcus, every five years, if you are over 65. Tetanus, every 10 years, (when was the last time you had a tetanus shot?) Hepatitis A, if you are gay Hepatitis B, if you are heterosexual, but has more than one partner, if you are gay, or if you are a healthcare worker. Varicella, if you have no immunity to it. (If you are immunocompromised, you should not take this one.) It is fall, take your vaccines, remind your parents to do the same. If you have the flu, wash your hands often, don't cough in the air, and don't cough on other people's face. Cover your mouth and your nose, and you don't need a burka for that. (OdlerRobert Jeanlouie, Saturday, October 1, 2011)

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