News on Flu: New Vaccine May Give Lifelong Protection

Flu season occurred early this year, especially in countries in the northern hemisphere, causing many people to scramble for annual flu shots. Well, experts say that  ritual may someday be history.

A vaccine has been developed out of mRNA (messenger RNA), a first for any infectious disease in the world. Its genetic makeup controls the secretion of proteins, but unlike its predecessors, the newly developed flu shot may work for life. Best thing about it is that, it may be produced quickly enough to stop flu pandemic.

When our immune system learns to recognize the key proteins of a flu strain called the HA and NA on the virus’ surface, we become immune to the flu virus. This happens either we receive one of the usual annual flu shots of which contained dead virus, or we have caught and fought off the specific strain.

Flu evolves and mutates constantly; this is why the World Health Organization study and predict which strain would be prevalent for the coming flu season and come up with a vaccine suited for that strain. We need this different flu shot every year to protect ourselves from the prevailing strain of flu virus. Of course, their recommendations can be wrong, even worse, a completely new strain may come up, and no one has a protection against it and may progress as a pandemic.

The Freeze-dried vaccine

Lothar Stitz, from Friedrich-Loeffler Institute in Riems Island, Germany, says the solution could be in the mRNA that controls the production of HA and NA in the virus, which can be mass-produced in a few weeks. The idea is to freeze-dry the mRNA into a powder without the need for refrigeration. Contrary to most vaccines today that has to be kept cool inside a refrigerator.

Immune cells will pick up injected mRNA, which translates into protein. The proteins are then recognized by the body as a foreign material, stimulating an immune response. As soon as the immune system is alerted, it can fight off the strain as soon as it encounters the virus.

Similar idea has been made using DNA-coded vaccines for flu proteins. However, it is very unlikely to be approved by the WHO, as it might mix into the human DNA and disrupt gene regulation.

Safety advantage

Unlike the DNA version, the mRNA is not a risk, as it can’t become part of the human genome. Bjarne Bogen from the University of Oslo, Norway, who’s working on a DNA vaccine for flu, says, “RNA probably has advantages over DNA as concerns safety.”

A true universal flu vaccine would promote immunity to proteins, which are the same for all strains of flu viruses, but which the virus normally hides from the immune system. The mRNA vaccine is still under several tests before it can deliver its promises safely. Until then, our best option is to still get the annual flu shot.

 

 

Strong Immune System: Your First Line of Defense from Flu

Influenza, may look like a simple cold in the surface, but it is undeniably, a serious health concern. It hospitalizes about 200,000 people in United States every year, and kills 36,000 annually. The flu vaccine remains the best solution to stop the problem right before it begins.

Medical health professionals gather samples and information around the world for influenza samples to pin point which strain will likely be more prevalent and more dangerous for the coming season. However, forecasting which strain becomes more prevalent in the coming season can be quite tricky, and this is where the importance of having a strong immune system gets into the picture.

Anyone who wants to save themselves from the dangers of flu and its symptoms should get vaccinated. People belonging to more vulnerable groups such as children 6 months and older, adults over 50, pregnant women, and people with chronic medical conditions are strongly advised to take their annual shot of the flu vaccine.

Healthy kids and adults and pregnant women can also opt for nasal vaccines, which are given in a form of a mist.

However, not everyone can get a shot of the immunization, as people with chicken egg allergies and those who have had bad reactions to flu shots are discouraged to take it because of allergic reactions, as egg is an important part of the vaccine. Here are some practical tips to strengthen your immune system and have a good first line of defense against flu this coming season.

Eat Healthy

Having a balanced diet of fresh and good foods loaded with vitamins and minerals is crucial for keeping a tougher immune system. Some of the most important vitamins for battling flu are Vitamin A, B6, C and E along with minerals like iron, zinc, selenium, and copper. Fruits and veggies are rich with such nutrients, while supplements can help cover the insufficient nutrients intake. For cold seasons, health professionals advice to increase vitamin C intake to better fight the influenza virus.

Eat Garlic Everyday

Some foods are simply better than others in terms of giving your body’s defense system a boost. Garlic is one good example of an immuno-booster, as it’s a very good antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral food that can prevent infection from getting and spreading throughout the body. Two cloves of garlic a day is already enough. To avoid bad breath issues, dice the cloves and swallow them with water or herbal tea. You can also follow it up with a sprig of parsley.

Eat Mushroom Everyday

Mushrooms improve the body’s chances of fighting infection by giving white blood cells a boost. White blood cells are responsible in stopping infectious viruses right at the doorsteps. Shiitake and maitake mushrooms are the common choices.

Keep Yourself Active

Pump up your immune system by sweating for 30 to 60 minutes a day. Several studies show that an active body is a healthy body. It reduces stress and keeps the optimum weight in good shape.

Sleep Enough

Getting a good night’s sleep is vital to combat stress and boost the body’s immune system. Eight hours of sleep every night is good enough to get the body moving.

Follow these steps and take good care of your body and you will improve your chances to avoid the flu.

 

Things You Need To Know About The Flu Vaccine For 2013

Prevention is better than cure, we all agree on this, that’s why flu vaccine is there to help our body ward off the influenza virus. We all know that even if you heal from the flu, the hassles in hospitalization are just impractical, not to mention it can pose some real threats to your health when ignored and thought as simple common colds. The CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) reported in 2007 that, there are about 200,000 people rushed to hospitals because of flu and related complications, while 36,000 of them died.

More About The Flu Vaccine

Who Needs The Vaccine?

The CDC recommends everyone should get the flu shot every year, except 6 months old and younger. This includes older individuals (people over 50 years old), pregnant women, and even people with chronic medical issues. Also, people working and living in nursing homes and in different long-term care facilities are highly recommended to take the flu shots to keep themselves safe from all the risks associated with the virus.

Why We Need To Get It Annually?

The influenza virus is a virus that evolves from time to time, usually from season to season. With this, the virus is able to mutate and change into a new strain, allowing easily evading our body’s immune system and infecting our body with the illness. With this obviously, what worked last season may have little or even no effect on this season’s flu virus. That’s why health experts are formulating new solutions for the vaccine to effectively ward off the virus.

People experiencing fever and are allergic to chicken eggs on the other hand, can’t take the flu shot, as it can trigger allergic reaction. Also, people who’ve had bad allergic reactions in the past are highly discouraged to take the vaccine.

Flu Vaccine In The US for 2012 – 2013 Flu Season

Various manufacturers are making their trivalent (vaccines with 3 components) vaccines for the US market, and this includes the IM type (intramuscular) and nasal spray type of shots. Though there are manufacturers out there that are making quadrivalent versions of the vaccine, this type is not yet needed for this year’s season or any time soon.

Amount of Available Vaccines For This Season

For this year, the US government is expecting to see about 149 million doses of flu shots. Quite a big leap from last season’s 132.8 million.

Who Makes These Flu Vaccines?

Vaccines for influenza are made by different manufactures all over the country. These are licensed manufacturers accredited by the government and works hand in hand with the health departments (Food and Drug Administration) to ensure a safe and effective process. Contrary to what most people believe, the CDC doesn’t make any flu vaccines.

How The Vaccine Works Inside Our Body?

Vaccines for influenza are studied and made meticulously to safeguard consumers from the 3 most common strains of the flu virus, which what experts believe to be very prevalent this year’s flu season. US health departments discovered 3 types of influenza that’s affecting and circulating in the US today, and these are the influenza A (H1N1), influenza A (H3N2) and the influenza B virus. Every year, one virus from each kind is used to make the new seasonal flu shot.

Flu Vaccine for Your Toddler

In the past couple of months, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), issued a statement about their new guidelines for 2012 influenza season and the flu vaccine for children. Also, the CDC recommends that children over 6 months should get their standard flu shot (LAIV – live attenuated intranasal vaccine), also called as the FluMist, a nasal spray type of vaccine. Though there were no significant changes in the guidelines in the past, the AAP emphasized the importance of getting the shot, especially for children, and that parents should be meticulous in administering shots for their kids.

Last year’s influenza season required only one shot of the vaccine, this year however, may be a bit different, because depending on the age of the child, he/she may need more than one shot. Parents are encouraged to take their kids to their doctors for clarification on this matter and for the schedule of the next shot. Furthermore, parents are advised to take note of the inoculations administered to their kids, especially on dosage.

Flu vaccines are now available in all over the United States. Get your vaccine and provide your body the protection it needs from the health hazards of the virus and its symptoms as it peaks next year and stretches until late of March 2013.