The flu vaccine can protect you from MRSA and other deadly pathogens


U.S. influenza activity is now the most widespread since the 2009 influenza pandemic, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in its latest weekly update on flu activity. The CDC therefore urges Americans to get a flu vaccine if they haven’t already because “There is still a lot of the season to go, and vaccination now could still have some benefit.” That doesn’t guarantee that you’ll be 100 per cent protected from the flu, however, “Even if you get the flu, having received the flu vaccine may help you in terms of not having as serious a course or as devastating a course.” And that, as it turns, can matter a lot.

Tandy Harmon (above), 36, a single working mother of 11- and 12-year old boys from Portland, Oregon, was in good health until she starting feeling ill with the flu one Sunday earlier this month. The next day, she stayed home from her job as a bartender at a local sports lounge. By that Wednesday, she ended up in intensive care at Legacy Emanuel Medical Center in North Portland, diagnosed with the flu, pneumonia and an infection from Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).

Harmon’s symptoms became severe fast. Her organs started to shut down. Her liver failed. Her skin started to discolor. They even considered the amputation of limbs as an option to keep her alive. And two days later, after a decision was made to remove her from life support, she died, leaving family and friends stunned. “That’s all it took was a couple of days,” said her boyfriend Steven Lundin. “I can’t believe it.”

Dr. John Townes, head of the infectious disease program at Oregon Health & Science University explained what happened in an interview with The Oregonian:

[T]hey get the flu. That opens the floodgates for the bacteria to invade their body. This happens every year. This is why we harp about getting a flu vaccine. The flu can lead to severe bacterial infection. The usual average healthy person doesn’t die of influenza [but] influenza will lower your resistance to certain bacterial infections like staph infection or pneumococcal infection.

People at high risk for the flu – and thus should be vaccinated – are children younger than age 5 but especially less than age 2, adults age 65 and over, pregnant women, and people with underlying medical conditions such as lung disease, heart disease and diabetes.

Townes says you probably have the flu if you feel “sick all over.” In which case you should stay home, rest and stay away from others.

But what you really need to watch out for, he says, is if you start to feel better and then get worse. That’s when you should see a doctor because it’s a sign of something serious: that a bacterial infection such as MRSA has set in secondary to the viral infection – as was the case with Tandy Harmon.






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