Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Guest Post: Flu Shots By: Omar Baker, M.D., C.O.C.O.

Influenza activity continues to increase in the US and most of the country is now experiencing high levels of influenza-like-illness (ILI), according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC). To date, the CDC has received reports of 18 pediatric deaths this season.

One factor that may indicate increased severity this season is that the predominant circulating type of virus is influenza A (H3N2), which accounts for about 76 percent of the viruses reported.

Typically ‘H3N2 seasons’ have been more severe, with higher numbers of hospitalizations and deaths. Influenza vaccination offers the best protection against influenza with an efficacy of approximately 62 to 77 percent. In general, the flu vaccine works best among young healthy adults and older children. Yet, a number of parents remain uncertain about the benefits and potential risks of having their children vaccinated.

Most children six months of age and older should be vaccinated for influenza every year. It is especially important for people in high-risk groups and those who are in close contact with them. Most experts believe that flu viruses spread mainly by droplets made when people with flu cough, sneeze or talk. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby. Less often, a person might also get flu by touching a surface or object that has flu virus on it and then touching their own mouth, eyes or possibly their nose.

A flu vaccine is required every year because flu viruses are constantly evolving, and new flu viruses appear almost every year. The flu vaccine is formulated to keep up with the viruses as they change. Furthermore, a number of studies have shown that the body’s immunity to influenza viruses, acquired either through natural infection or vaccination, declines over time. A number of pediatric offices, including Riverside, use a preservative-free flu vaccine that is free of thimerosal, a mercury-based ingredient.

It would be a false statement to say that immunization has no negatives, but it’s a question of risks vs. benefits. Based on the data, the benefits of flu vaccination as preventive medicine far outweigh its minimal side effects, such as fever, irritability and some discomfort – a little pain, redness and tenderness at the site of injection -- especially when compared to the grief and trauma these diseases can bring.

In terms of immunizing the entire family, some babies might be too young to be completely vaccinated and other family members may not be able to receive vaccinations due to allergies, illness, a history of Guillain–BarrĂ© Syndrome -- a severe paralytic illness -- weakened immune systems or religious beliefs. To help keep these individuals safe, it is important that those who can get vaccinated do so in order to help prevent the spread of influenza.

Some parents oppose the flu shot because they believe it can cause flu illness, but this is not true. The influenza viruses contained in a flu shot are inactivated (killed), which means they cannot cause infection. Unlike the flu shot, the nasal spray vaccine does contain live viruses. However, the viruses contained in the nasal spray flu vaccine are weakened, which means they cannot cause flu illness.

General precautions, such as frequent hand-washing, should be taken to avoid flu symptoms. Parents are encouraged to consult their pediatrician should they have any further questions.

About Omar Baker, M.D., C.O.C.O.
Omar Baker, M.D., joined Riverside Pediatric Group in 2011 and is Riverside's Chief Officer of Clinical Operations. He cares for patients at Riverside’s Headquarters in Secaucus six days a week. Dr. Baker is proud to carry on the family legacy of caring for Northern Jersey’s most valuable patients – its children, started by his father some 35 years ago. As one of Riverside’s bright young stars, Dr. Baker brings a stellar academic and training background along with an unparalleled passion to provide the best care possible to the children of Riverside families.

About Riverside Pediatric Group and Medical Group

Riverside Pediatric Group (RPG) is Northern New Jersey’s premiere pediatric group and host to free prenatal seminars for expectant parents. RPG embodies the “medical home,” a revolutionary concept in pediatric care recently endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics. The medical home approach encourages pediatricians to go beyond their conventional role, as “intermittent” providers of care at brief patient visits for isolated issues, and approach the patient as a whole. RPG collaborates with the parents in all decision-making and emphasizes preventative care and around-the-clock access to a child’s healthcare team. Offering the longest hours of any pediatric practice in the country – 8 a.m.-midnight, 7 days a week, 365 days a year – RPG provides the kind of high quality, state-of-the art equipment normally found only in emergency rooms or offices of sub-specialists. RPG’s sister organization, Riverside Medical Group, is the premier adult medical practice in Northern New Jersey, embracing the "Riverside" way and offering to young adults, parents and grandparents the unique care that RPG has been providing to the children of Northern New Jersey for over 30 years. Visit or call (201) 863-3346.  “Like” us:

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