David W. Weisgerber, M.D., P.A.

Internal Medicine

307 10th Avenue N.E.

Hickory, NC  28601

Board Certified Internal Medicine

Specializing in Preventive Medical Care and Diagnosis and Treatment of  Adult Diseases

Office visits by appointment  828-327-9898

Email Dr. Weisgerber

The Flu Vaccine

What about the Flu Vaccine?

The Flu Vaccine is an injection which allows the body to build a defense against the Influenza type A and B virus.  The vaccine was first introduced in 1940 and has had a long history of improvement to its production and application.  The vaccine is derived from chicken eggs infected by the influenza virus with the viral proteins isolated at a later stage after the virus is inactivated (killed) by using formalin.  The vaccine does not cause influenza as an infection although some persons may develop one or two days of low grade fever or flu symptoms reflecting the body's desirable reaction to the vaccine's viral protein.  The vaccine is proven to be  effective by both preventing the infection and perhaps more commonly decreasing the severity of the infection once it occurs.  An average of 20,000 persons die of influenza each year in the United States. The risk for those with any chronic medical disease and those over the age of 50 is higher.  Those individuals should arrange to obtain a vaccination.

In 1984 the strategy for vaccine usage evolved to define those at greatest risk rather than a general recommendation to provide general vaccination to all those over age 65.  Beginning this year, the Advisory Committee for Immunization Practices (ACIP) of the Center for Disease Control (CDC), expands the target population for vaccination to include those persons 50 years of age and older.

Generally, if persons can eat eggs or egg-containing products, the vaccination is safe.  Even those individuals who are pregnant, if beyond the first 3 months of pregnancy during the influenza season, should obtain the vaccination. The risk of dying of vaccination represented approximately 1 in 2 million (during the 1976 swine influenza vaccination program).

The vaccine for 2000-2001 will include protection aimed against two type A viruses and one type B virus.  The viruses being targeted for 2000-2001 will be A/Moscow/10/99(H3N2), A/New Caledonia/20/99(H1N1), and B/Beijing/184/93.

Optimal time for vaccination is from early October to late November.  Patients seen by their doctors should be offered the vaccine beginning in September.

Testing of a live virus vaccine administered by nasal drops has been underway.  As yet, this is not available in the United States.

Anti-influenza drugs include amantadine and ramantidine active against only type A influenza.  Both are approved for treatment of the infection and for prophylaxis (protection from the infection before it is contracted).
The newer medications, zanamivir and oseltamivir, are effective against both type A and B influenza viruses but are approved ONLY for treatment of infection, not for prophylaxis.

CDC Index for Influenza     http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/diseases/flu/fluvirus.htm

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