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Flu season is almost here!

Flu season is almost here!  Don't forget to ask about getting your annual flu shot.  Our flu vaccines will be in by October 15th!

Influenza (flu) is a very contagious viral infection which takes a major toll on humans every year. There are usually 35 to 50 million cases of influenza annually in the USA, directly causing at least 20,000 deaths per annum. Influenza actually causes many more deaths per annum indirectly by aggravating countless other medical conditions such as heart disease, pneumonia, asthma, emphysema, alcoholism, AIDS, diabetes mellitus, cancer, kidney disease, anemia, etc. These numbers are representative only of years when there is not a pandemic of influenza: In 1918 the so called “Spanish Flu” pandemic killed more than 20 million people worldwide (most of whom were age 20-39 years old); the 1957 and 1977 “Asian Flu”, the 1968 and 1997 “Hong Kong Flu”, and the 1983 and 1984 “Swine Flu” were each much less deadly, but no less concerning.

It is certainly better to prevent influenza than to try to treat it, and this is why Dr. Stewart is such a strong advocate of taking the influenza vaccine every October. Certainly if you are above the age of 60, you should have an annual influenza vaccine. If you have any chronic medical condition (heart disease, emphysema, asthma, cancer, diabetes, AIDS, anemia, cystic fibrosis, kidney disease, etc.), you should be vaccinated annually for influenza. The influenza vaccines currently available do not contain live influenza virus; rather they contained inactivated virus. Yes: you can get a mild flu-like illness after being injected with the flu vaccine; this is not the flu, but rather represents your immune system responding to virus proteins in the vaccine.

One other point to remember: Many illnesses that are called “the flu” are actually not true influenza; in Dr. Stewart’s practice experience, he has seen patients diagnosed with the flu who turned out to have pneumonia, tuberculosis, AIDS, hepatitis, meningitis, blood poisoning (sepsis), kidney infection (pyelonephritis), blood clots in the lungs (pulmonary embolism), congestive heart failure, and even lung cancer. If your symptoms are not improving, you may need to be evaluated for one of these diagnoses. Ask your doctor to order a chest x-ray and even a blood test to rule out another source of infection.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Get your flu shot before you get sick!

Committed to your good health.