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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Different Types of the Flu

Edgar Cruz, MD
Influenza (the flu) is a virus that infects the nose, throat, airways and the lungs. It is very contagious and is transmitted from person to person during coughing, sneezing, and even while speaking at a very close distance. The infection with the influenza virus occurs during the period from October through April.

The typical symptoms of the flu include fever, chills, muscle aches, nasal congestion, runny nose and difficulty breathing. In some instances, in vulnerable people like young children and older adults, it can even cause fulminant pneumonia. Every year in the United States approximately 200,000 people are hospitalized and 36,000 die from complications of the infection. Because of the fact that the infection is caused by a virus, it cannot be successfully treated with antibiotics.

Since the 1940’s a flu vaccine has been available to reduce or eliminate the symptoms of the flu. There are two types of vaccines. The vaccine with inactivated virus is developed in eggs. It is purified and it is administered as an injection. The vaccine with attenuated (debilitated) virus ”Flu Mist”, is also produced in eggs. This vaccine is administered as a nasal spray. Because the virus is attenuated, it cannot grow in the lungs but it can grow in the nasal cavity were it produces an excellent protective immune response. Both vaccines include the 3 most frequent types of virus that cause the infection during that year. The flu vaccine is administered each year because the circulating virus are different each year.

For the most part the flu vaccines are safe. There is a secondary effect that could be very serious. Because the vaccines are produced in eggs there might be a small amount of egg protein. The people that are allergic to eggs might develop an allergic reaction that is rarely fatal but that it can be very severe. For this reason people that are allergic to eggs should not receive the flu vaccine unless they are in a very high risk population and that the benefits of receiving the vaccine outweighs the risk of getting a severe flu infection.

The flu vaccine is usually administered right before the flu season starts during September and November. The vaccine can be administered during the flu season even through March. In a phone conversation with CDC (centers for Disease Control) personnel we were informed that as long the vaccine has not expired there is no definite time limit to administer the vaccine.

The vaccine could protect 70 to 90 of every 100 people from contracting a moderate to severe infection. Talk to your doctor and try to get the vaccine this year.

Friday, September 26, 2014

How the Flu Spreads

Edgar Cruz, MD
All three flu viruses are spread in the same way: they leave an infected person’s body in droplets whenever that person coughs, sneezes, or puts their mouth on another object. If you’re in close contact with an infected person, you may end up inhaling infected droplets immediately, but you can also pick up the virus later from touching an infected object like a door handle or a pencil, and then touching your eyes, nose, or mouth.

This is why it is essential to maintain vigorous personal hygiene, especially during flu season. Simple steps like using antibacterial liquid to clean your hands after getting off a bus, or washing your hands extra carefully before eating, can go a long way in avoiding the flu and preventing its spread. 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Why it is Important to Bring Your Prescription Bottles to Your Office Appointment?

Edgar Cruz, MD
The best way you can help to prevent errors is to be an active member of your health care team. That means taking part in every decision about your health care. Research shows that patients who are more involved with their care tend to get better results.
Make sure that all of your doctors know about every medicine you are taking. This includes prescription and over-the-counter medicines and dietary supplements, such as vitamins and herbs.  Do not assume that everyone has all the information they need. Bring all of your medicines and supplements to your doctor visits. "Brown bagging" your medicines can help you and your doctor talk about them and find out if there are any problems. It can also help your doctor keep your records up to date and help you get better quality care. Make sure your doctor knows about any allergies and adverse reactions you have had to medicines. This can help you to avoid getting a medicine that could harm you.
Ask for information about your medicines in terms you can understand—both when your medicines are prescribed and when you get them:

What is the medicine for?

How am I supposed to take it and for how long?

What side effects are likely? What do I do if they occur?

Is this medicine safe to take with other medicines or dietary supplements I am taking?

What food, drink, or activities should I avoid while taking this medicine?

When you pick up your medicine from the pharmacy, ask: Is this the medicine that my doctor prescribed?

Ask for written information about the side effects your medicine could cause. If you know what might happen,  you will be better prepared if it does or if something unexpected happens.

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