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Flu Vaccine Not Just About Preventing the Flu

By Kathy Hubbard
If you were told that getting a flu shot may lower your risk for having a heart attack or stroke would you be more inclined to get vaccinated? Hopefully, you answered that you would get a flu shot just to make sure you didn’t get the flu, but researchers at the University of Lincoln in the United Kingdom had some interesting findings.
Funded by National Institute of Health Research, the team led by Niro Siriwardena, professor of primary and pre-hospital health care and a general practitioner found that patients who have the seasonal influenza vaccine could reduce their risk of having a heart attack or stroke by up to 20 percent.
“Vaccines administered earlier in the flu season offered greater protection. In the first week after the jab, there were 36 percent fewer cases of stroke than would be otherwise expected among a ‘baseline’ population, while the second week showed a 30 percent reduction. The third and fourth weeks saw 24 percent fewer stroke cases, dropping to 17 percent between 29 days and 59 days after the jab,” the University of Lincoln’s website says.
“It is thought that some cardiovascular diseases may be triggered by flu and that protection provided by the flu vaccine against the seasonal influenza virus could therefore also protect against these conditions, which include stroke. The antibody response against influenza lasts four to six months.”
It’s important to note that we’re talking about reducing risk for those at risk. But, at least, the study puts another arrow in the quiver when it comes to making a good case for getting vaccinated. And the sooner, the better.
There’s already been a case of influenza in Spokane. KXLY News reported on October 14 that a woman with a history of health issues was hospitalized and positively tested. She was unvaccinated.
“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says flu activity nationwide is low so far this year, but the CDC has received reports of early outbreaks across the country,” The KXLY story said. “The Spokane Regional Health District says it’s a little early for a confirmed case in Spokane. Historically Spokane’s first flu case is not seen until late fall, with the city’s peak flu activity in December and January.”
Of course, we’re not Spokane, but you might say that we’re just a sneeze away. The CDC tells us that people can spread flu up to six feet away when they cough, talk or sneeze. That means that someone you don’t even know can be spreading their nasty germ droplets into your nose or mouth.
You can also get the flu by touching a surface or object that an infected person has touched and then touching your mouth or nose. This is why hand washing with soap and water is so very important. It’s also why you should be sure to use the wipes that the grocery store provides to wipe the cart before you start putting your food into it.
Don’t forget that an adult can infect other people a day before symptoms even develop and up to seven days after becoming ill. Children can spread the virus even longer. And, it’s not uncommon for someone to have the flu virus and no symptoms. That means that they don’t know it, but they’re still contagious.
It takes around two weeks for the vaccine to become fully effective, so you should get your shot today. It doesn’t hurt. It only takes a minute. It won’t give you the flu. It may lower your risk of stroke. What are you waiting for?
If you have concerns, your best bet is to talk to your healthcare provider who can then give you your shot. Vaccinations are also available at pharmacies, grocery stores and at Panhandle Health District, 1020 Michigan Street, 263-5159. Adults can walk into PHD, children need an appointment. They’re open Monday through Thursday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. but are closed for lunch from noon to 1 p.m.
Kathy Hubbard is a member of Bonner General Health Foundation Advisory Council. She can be reached at 264-4029 or kathyleehubbard@yahoo.com.

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