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Today we'll talk about fighting the flu.So you ask.Why do I have to get a flu shot every Fall when other vaccines last for years?!

That's because the Influenza virus is always mutating, creating new strains. It doesn't help that the virus also comes in three types: A, B, and C. B and C are the least serious. A, on the other hand, is the one we worry most about. Every year, A viruses emerge in Asia and can spread throughout the world.

Influenza A viruses are naturally found in wild birds as well as domesticated birds like ducks and chickens. In rural Asia, ducks and chickens live with pigs and humans. Occasionally, a chicken flu virus infects a pig and that's where it gets interesting. If the pig is also infected with another flu virus, it's possible the genetic information from both types of viruses can get jumbled together and new viral strains develop.

Sometimes, an avian influenza virus can "jump the species barrier", and move directly from birds to humans and cause disease. Either way, you probably won't have any natural immunity against these new viruses. That makes it possible for a new virus to sweep through the human population with great vengeance.

That's why at the start of each year, a committee of the US Food and Drug Administration tries to predict which of the three types of influenza viruses are most likely to occur. From that an appropriate vaccine is developed. And, the World Health Organization recommends the vaccines contain two A strains and one B strain, just to be on the safe side.

Make no mistake: The best way to prevent the flu is the vaccine. So, if your doctor recommends it, muster your courage, roll up your sleeve, and get that flu shot. It's worth it.

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"The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is one of the 13 major operating components of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS),which is the principal agency in the United States government for protecting the health and safety of all Americans and for providing essential human services, especially for those people who are least able to help themselves. Since it was founded in 1946 to help control malaria, CDC has remained at the forefront of public health efforts to prevent and control infectious and chronic diseases, injuries, workplace hazards, disabilities, and environmental health threats" Among the annual threats to human health is influenza and the CDC is an excellent and reliable source of information.

US Food and Drug Administration has a program called The Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research (CBER) that regulates biological products. The mission of CBER is to protect and enhance the public health through the regulation of biological and related products including blood, vaccines, tissue, allergenics and biological therapeutics. Vaccines are biological products and CBER has additional information about the yearly influenza vaccine.

The Immunization Action Coalition is a good source of useful information about influenza, treatments and vaccines that are gathered from a variety of trustworthy sources here and here.


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