Influenza and the Flu Shot

Definition: Virus. Influenza A can cause moderate to severe illness in all age groups and infects humans and other animals. Influenza B causes milder disease and affects only humans, primarily children.

Symptoms: Typical influenza disease is characterized by abrupt onset of fever, aching muscles, sore throat, and non-productive cough. Additional symptoms may include runny nose, headache, a burning sensation in the chest, and eye pain and sensitivity to light. Typical influenza symptoms does not occur in every infected person. Someone who has been previously exposed to similar virus strains (through natural infection or vaccination) is less likely to develop serious clinical illness.

Stats: Children age two years and younger have hospitalization rates second only to people age 65 years and older. Children younger than age one year are the most likely to be hospitalized. Influenza-associated deaths are uncommon among children. An estimated annual average of 92 influenza-related deaths occurred among children age 5 years or younger during the 1990s.

How you get it: Influenza is transmitted through the air from the respiratory tract of an infected person. It can also be transmitted by direct contact with respiratory droplets. The incubation period of influenza is usually two days but can range from one to five days.  A person is most likely to pass on the virus during the period beginning one to two days before the onset of symptoms and ending four to five days after the onset.

How it’s treated: In most healthy people, influenza (flu) will go away in 5 to 7 days. The worst symptoms usually last 3 to 4 days. Home treatment to ease symptoms and prevent complications is usually all that is needed.

Tamiflu is the pharmaceutical answer to the flu.  It is a prescription medication (approx $135 to $190) used to treat the flu in people 2 weeks of age and older.  The medication must be taken within 48 hours of symptom onset (those who have had flu symptoms for no more than 2 days).  In a study, Tamiflu shortened symptom duration by 1.3 days.  Tamiflu has negative side effects in over half of those who take it, and it has been banned in Japan.

Possible complications of the flu: The most frequent complication of influenza is bacterial pneumonia. Viral pneumonia is a less common complication but has a high fatality rate. Other complications include inflammation of the heart and worsening of such pulmonary diseases as bronchitis.

Reye’s syndrome is a complication that occurs almost exclusively in children–patients suffer from severe vomiting and confusion, which may progress to coma because of swelling of the brain. To decrease the chance of developing Reye’s syndrome, infants, children, and teenagers should not be given aspirin for fever reduction or pain relief.


Influenza Vaccination Complications:

Safety and effectiveness of the Flu shot or FluMist has not been established in pregnant women or nursing mothers.

Mild problems: soreness, redness, or swelling where the shot was given, fever, aches.  If these problems occur, they usually begin soon after the shot and last 1 to 2 days.

Shedding: Scientific evidence demonstrates that individuals vaccinated with live virus vaccines can infect others with the virus for many days, weeks or months after vaccination, and can infect the vaccinated and unvaccinated alike.  The following shedding statistics were found in a study of the live attenuated flu vaccine:

Subjects aged 5-8 years – Shedding occurred in 44% of the individuals.

Subjects aged 9-17 years – Shedding occurred in 27% of the individuals.

Subjects aged 18-49 years – Shedding occurred in 17% of the individuals.

For the Live Attenuated Influenza Vaccine shedding occurred for 1-11 days.  Recipients should avoid contact with immunosuppressed persons for at least 7 days after vaccination.

Severe problems: Life-threatening allergic reactions.  Persons having had serious allergic reaction to eggs or to a previous dose of influenza vaccine should not receive either type of influenza vaccine.

Guillain Barre’ Syndrome

University of Hong Kong Study: A double-blind placebo-controlled trial shows us that the Flu vaccine causes 5.5 times more respiratory infections in vaccinated vs unvaccinated population.


Additional Information

Vaccine Inserts

Impact of Influenza Vaccination on Seasonal Mortality in the US Elderly Population – “We could not correlate increasing vaccination coverage after 1980 with declining mortality rates in any age group. Because fewer than 10% of all winter deaths were attributable to influenza in any season, we conclude that observational studies substantially overestimate vaccination benefit.”

Cochrane Reviews

British Medical Journal – Studies indicate that the effect of the flu vaccine is minimal, likely only reducing the risk of illness by 1-9%, and showing no benefit at all for young children.

Flu death rates reported by the CDC have been deemed over-inflated.  Per the CDC website, they lump flu related deaths and pneumonia related deaths together. People, however, can develop pneumonia for MANY different reasons. Further analysis of those deaths find that the number of people who actually tested positive for the flu is a very small percentage.  The CDC website states “CDC estimated that only 8.5% of all pneumonia and influenza deaths and only 2.1% of all respiratory and circulatory deaths were influenza-related.”  This site has a great breakdown of the true numbers, using legitimate data.


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