I’m pro flu shot. I’m pro vaccination. So before you read this, keep in mind that I was raised in a household where modern medicine reigns.
I’m also a history buff. And in the case of the swine flu, or H1N1, being a history buff makes a difference in how I approach the vaccination scheme this year. I believe history has a lot to teach us.
Our local clinics are going to be offering both the H1N1 flu vaccine and the regular flu shot.
I’m no pharmacist. I can’t tell you all the components that go into an inoculation.
But I can tell you why I’m getting both flu shots this year.
The flu kills.
I’m not just talking H1N1. I’m talking about your seasonal diseases that circulate every year.
This year, the only difference is who the flu kills.
Typically, seniors die from the flu. In droves. No one ever knows it because they often die from a secondary infection like pneumonia or other complications. An 89-year-old person dying from pneumonia does not make headlines. It should. Because it’s potentially preventable with routine flu shots and proper hygiene. But make the headlines it does not.
H1N1 seems to be different, and much like its Spanish flu predecessor of 1918. The Spanish flu did not kill just old people. It slaughtered young people in their prime. Healthy young people in their prime.
It’s thought that the gung-ho immune systems of young adults fought the swine flu so voraciously that it in turn attacked healthy tissue. Healthy lung tissue, in fact. What happened? The lungs of these healthy young people turned to goop and they suffocated. When your lungs go goopy, it’s all over, folks.
Now, in 1918, there were no antibiotics. No ventilators. We weren’t too far from having leeches put on you at that point. So maybe these tools would have helped mitigate the death rate.
About ten years ago, a former co-worker of mine ended up on a ventilator after a nasty bout of flu. At the time, his doctor told him it was from some kind of flu from pigs. Was it a variant of H1N1? Who knows for sure? But for a man in the prime of his life ending up in intensive care after contracting a flu from pigs… well, it sounds suspiciously like 1918. He was lucky and recovered.
Today if a large amount of the population suddenly needed intensive care and ventilators, our already over-stretched health care system would crash. How many ventilators are available? And nurses? And hospital beds, period?
Wouldn’t it just be easier to vaccinate as many people as possible?
In 1976, there was a flare up of the swine flu in the United States. It begot mass panic even though it was confined to a military fort. A vaccine was developed and the U.S. president urged everyone to get it. Unfortunately mass panic for the infection changed to mass panic for the vaccination after some seniors died after receiving the shot. Now to say they died from the shot is like saying some seniors were hit by a bus after receiving the shot, meaning the vaccine caused mass traffic accidents. No direct correlation was found, though some people did get Guillian Barre syndrome, a rare side effect of shots that can cause paralysis.
So if there’s a reason to not get the flu shot, Guillian Barre is one. However Guillian Barre can also be caused by infections, so whether you opt for no flu shot or not, you’re at risk. Thankfully, Guillian Barre is treatable. And it didn’t stop F.D.R from becoming a prominent U.S. president. (The dude in the wheelchair? No, it’s thought polio did not cause his physical disability, GB did.)
Enter the year 2009 and the words swine flu.
It’s an eerie descendant of the deadly Spanish flu. And it seems to have a liking for young victims when typically, the seasonal flu takes out the old.
Thanks to DNA technologies, lots of research on the Spanish flu, and modern technologies, scientists isolated the exact strain of H1N1 and manufactured a vaccine to stimulate a person’s immune system to produce antibodies that will either prevent the flu or lessen its ravages on the body.
That flu shot is available. Free to the taking. (Well your tax dollars have already paid for it.)
A small stick, maybe a little sensitivity on your arm, and you’ll be protected from the flu. You’ll be protecting other people from the flu because you won’t be hacking all over the place.
The 2009 variant of H1N1 does not seem to be as deadly and dangerous as the 1918 strain. However, these things can mutate and change, so the potential is there for swine flu to become a menace to the world.
But do you want to take the chance you’ll be fine when you can take a vaccine that will help your immune system fight the good fight?
There’s a lot of controversy over whether it’s safe to take the vaccine. People would prefer to let natural take its course. They would prefer to let their body develop antibodies naturally–e.g. by actually getting the virus.
I would prefer to take a vaccine that will let my body develop antibodies safely. It’s worked for polio, diphtheria, measles, mumps, tetanus, whooping cough, rabies, rubella, HPV… need I go on?
Vaccination has helped to eradicate the world of killers (smallpox) and mitigated the deadly and crippling effects of dangerous diseases like diphtheria and polio.
I’m going to side with the technology that has allowed me to live to the ripe age of 28 without getting more than the chicken pox, a cold, or the stomach flu.
This year, I’m getting my seasonal flu shot to protect the elderly and vulnerable of my world. And I’m getting H1N1 to protect me from getting goopy lungs.
Talk to your doctor or public health nurse or call 811. They can answer your questions and see if the flu shot is perfect for you. A few people shouldn’t get the flu shot, and this is usually limited to people who are allergic to eggs.
Vaccinations are part of a healthy lifestyle and they’ve been around for hundreds of years. They often prevent deadly diseases for which there are no cures and no antibiotics (because antibiotics only work on bacteria, not viruses.) They’re one defense in a world where viruses thrive.
Don’t believe conspiracy theorists. Inoculating yourself against deadly killers is a good step in keeping yourself alive and kicking.
If you’re a caregiver or parent, make sure you consider giving it to your children, because their little immune systems have likely never been exposed to a swine flu or anything similar. Pregnant? You’re at high risk for complications… get a vaccine and pass on the antibodies to your babe.
If you’re human, chances are, you need this shot. Don’t let the viruses win.
Suggested reading: Gina Kolota’s Flu: The Story of the Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918 and the Search for the Virus That Caused It.