Should You Get Flu Shot?

Should You Get  Flu Shot?

Why do we get ill? There are a lot of reasons. Partly we are an evolutionary kludge with many systems that get by more than work at maximal efficiency. Partly it is because of the variations and polymorphisms that occur naturally from person to person; it is these variations that are the clay upon which evolution works.

Have the wrong amino acid in a protein and it may increase or decrease your risk for getting an infection. There are, of course, things we can do to decrease risk of disease: good diet, exercise, etc. Risks can be modified, but I suspect a long disease free life has more to due to luck the of the genetic draw than any particular life style one chooses.

 

I have been an infectious disease doctor for almost 30 years and a large part of my job is infection control and prevention. When it comes to infections we have been particularly skilled in identifying the issues that lead to diseases. Preventing infections is always multifactorial, the summation of intervening on multiple processes, from interfering with the epidemiology of the disease to other interventions to prevent disease.

As a truly holistic doctor I understand that influenza (and other infections) have evolved to infect us as their mechanism of reproduction. Perhaps more efficient than too much vodka and forgotten contraception that explains so much of human reproduction.

For example, human influenza has a sophisticated and specific affinity for specific sialic acids found on the outside of human respiratory cells. Influenza binds avidly to these sialic acids to start the infection cascade. Bird flus recognize a slightly different binding site, which is why bird flus are not that infectious to humans.

You can avoid influenza by not allowing influenza to come into contact with these binding sites: washing hands, not being in the direct line of a cough. You can (in part) be protected by antibodies, from vaccines or naturally acquired, that bind to the flu before it binds to you. That is a race that is not always won by the patient and part of why the vaccine is not 100% effective in preventing influenza.

And you may be more fit and have the ability to take care of a small inoculum of influenza before it can cause disease. For now.

But from my perspective, infections are inevitable. If you get the right exposure all the preparation in the world will not prevent you from getting an infection. We are in sea of microbes who have evolved to infect us so they can reproduce and short of acquired immunity from infection or vaccination, we will get infected.

It is why I find the following nonsense:

As a Functional Medicine physician I approach the flu, like all imbalances in the body, which is to say I don’t assume the human body is subject to illness when the proper diet and lifestyle precautions are taken.  When a patient is sick, some detective work is necessary to find out what missing pieces are interfering with the efficacy of their immune system.

It doesn’t matter what your lifestyle or diet is, influenza will cause illness if you get exposed. You will get the flu; it does not matter what the integrity of your immune system is. You may be the fastest impala on the veldt, but that big cat will still get you under the right circumstances.

That is one of the underlying premises of the pseudo-medical world that is fundamentally wrong; that we can avoid illness if we just lived our lives correctly.  Infections are inevitable.  You may be able to decrease your odds of being exposed to the pathogen or have immunity from prior exposure.

Should I Get the Flu Shot?  Yep.  It is one of the many things you can do to delay the inevitable. 

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