Saturday, January 23, 2016

Huh? Less flu vac/less flu?!

A news report from our northern neighbors (Ontario, Canada) reveals an intriguing bit of information - this year only 40% of local residents have received a flu vaccine (so far), yet there has been a 94% drop in reported flu cases compared with last year. The writer did not report what percentage of the same population received a flu vaccine last year. And to be fair (ie: scientific) there are many variables that affect prevalence of an infectious illness like influenza - so there is no way to know (short of an actual double-blind randomized controlled trial) if this is an anomaly unrelated to amount of flu vaccine distributed or if perhaps receipt of flu vaccine actually makes people more vulnerable to URI's (Upper Respiratory Infections) or ILI (Influenza Like Illness) like this study suggests. Yet another study from Japan also implies that Vit D3 may reduce risk of contacting flu. 

But this sort of information (less flu in a population with a low rate of vaccination) begs the question - why? It implies that perhaps it is not the vaccine that is responsible for this outcome. 

The writer of course makes the obligatory knee-jerk statement advising one and all to get a flu vaccine regardless of the contradictory facts previously disclosed earlier in the article. I won't make such a blanket recommendation - but instead encourage all to do their own research and decide to receive or decline vaccination (of any kind) in conjunction with a trusted healthcare provider once he or she decides they have sufficient information to make an informed decision and that this decision is freely made - not coerced, nor manipulated nor contingent upon any other action. 

Some common sense strategies to reduce risk: 
- With hands being a primary vector of infection hand-washing is a great way to reduce risk of acquiring an infection or of spreading one. I am not a big fan of alcohol-based hand cleansers for a variety of reasons, but they are a reasonable option if soap and water are not available. 
- Plenty of rest 
- Good nutrition 
- Vit D3 (one alternative explanation for the increase in illness in winter is less exposure
to sunlight and subsequent lower levels of Vit D circulating in our bodies). It would be 
prudent to talk with your healthcare provider about this and consider having your levels 

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