by Dan Hehir, MD
Here in Telluride the arrival of autumn is heralded by many events. We all recognize the cool mornings and changing of the aspens as signs of fall, but here at theTelluride Medical Center the first sign is the arrival of this years’ influenza vaccine. While many of us may respond to these seasonal cues by taking winter clothes out of the closet, making sure the ski gear is in order, or stacking firewood, I would like all of us to add getting a flu shot to that regimen.
Influenza is a viral illness that affects hundreds of thousands of US citizens a year. When calculating the suffering, death, lost work and productivity, the impact is quite severe. While there has been a lot of attention paid to pandemic flu in the media in the past few years it is important to note that the seasonal flu has great impacts to us all. Indeed it is estimated that it is involved with the deaths of about 36,000 US citizens a year. Fortunately, we have yearly flu shots that can protect us from this insidious virus.
Influenza is a very interesting pathogen. It is a virus that changes continuously, combining with different strains from human and other animal reservoirs. Outbreaks occur in a seasonal pattern in the Northern Hemisphere and the usual flu season runs from October until April. Because of the changing of the virus getting flu in the past or a previous flu shot does not protect you from getting the illness again. It takes 2 weeks after getting the immunization for your body to build up antibodies to the virus so it is important to get the shot early before the influenza season starts.
The Center for Disease Control now recommends that everyone in the US who can receive a vaccine should be vaccinated against the flu. Not only will this protect you, it also keeps you from passing the disease to those around you including those at highest risk such as the very young, very old, and those with chronic health problems. For a wealth of information on this topic take a look at www.cdc.gov/flu. Meanwhile, when you look up into the mountains and see the changing of the aspens let it be a reminder to you to call the medical center and make an appointment for your yearly flu shot.
Listen to Dr. Hehir’s conversation with Sasha Cucciniello.
Dan Hehir, MD, Chief of Medical Staff, Board Certified in Emergency Medicine
Dr Hehir was an Emergency Physician at Allegan General Hospital in Michigan before coming to Telluride Medical Center in 2004. He is the Residency Coordinator bringing 4th year residents to Telluride Medical Center for clinical rotations each ski season. He holds a faculty position at University of Colorado, Denver Health Sciences Center.
Dan enjoys spending time with his family, alpine skiing, mountaineering, mountain biking, music and Wilderness and Altitude Medicine.