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ERcast Lite

Welcome to ERCast, a focused discussion on the questions, quagmires and known unknowns we face everyday in the emergency department.

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Dec 1, 2011

As interview with podcast and blogging grandmaster Mark Crislip, MD on vaccinology and influenza.

Mark's website

CDC Flu Site

CDC info for clinicians on antiviral medications and influenza testing

Check out ZdoggMD's video 'Immunize'. Honorable mention winner of the 2011 Disposable Film Festival.

And last, but certainly not least, Mark Crislip's

A Budget of Dumb Asses

I wonder if you are one of those Dumb Asses who do not get the flu shot each year? Yes. Dumb Ass. Big D, big A. You may be allergic to the vaccine, you may have had Guillain Barre, in which case I will cut you some slack. But if you don't have those conditions and you work in health care and you don't get a vaccine for one of the following reasons, you are a dumb ass.

1. The vaccine gives me the flu. Dumb Ass.

It is a killed vaccine. It cannot give you the influenza. It is impossible to get flu from the influenza vaccine.

2. I never get the flu, so I don't need the vaccine. Irresponsible Dumb Ass.

I have never had a head on collision, but I wear my seat belt. And you probably don't use a condom either. So far you have been lucky, and you are a potential winner of a Darwin Award, although since you don't use a condom, you are unfortunately still in the gene pool.

3. Only old people get the flu. Selfish Dumb Ass.

Influenza can infect anyone, and one of the groups who are more likely to die of influenza are the very young. Often those most at risk for dying from influenza are those least able, due to age or underlying diseases, to respond to the vaccine. You can help prevent your old, sickly Grandmother or your newborn daughter from getting influenza by getting the vaccine, so you do not get flu and pass it one to her. Flu, by the way, is highly contagious, with 20 to 50% of contacts with an index case getting the flu.  However, Granny may be sitting on a fortune that will come to you, and killing her off with the flu is a great way to get her out of the way and never be caught.  That would make a good episode of CSI.

4. I can prevent influenza or treat it by taking Echinacea, vitamin C or airborne. Gullible Dumb Ass Cubed Then Squared.

None of these concoctions has any efficacy what so ever against influenza. They neither prevent nor treat influenza. And you can't boost you immune system either. Immunity is not a Jamba Juice. Anyone who says that the immune system can be boosted is also a dumb ass.

5. Flu isn't all that bad a disease. Underestimating Dumb Ass.

Part of the problem with the term flu is that it is used both as a generic term for damn near any viral illness with a fever and is also used for a severe viral pneumonia. Medical people are just as inaccurate about using the term as the general public. The influenza virus directly and indirectly kills 30,000 people and leads to hospitalization of 200,000 in the US each year. Influenza is a nasty lung illness. And what is stomach 'flu'? No such thing, dumb ass.

6. I am not at risk for flu. Denying Dumb Ass.

If you breathe, you are risk for influenza. Here are the groups of people who should not get the flu vaccine (outside of people with severe adverse reactions to the vaccine): Former President Clinton, who evidently doesn't inhale. And people who want to be safe from zombies. If you don't get the vaccine you do not have to worry about the zombie apocalypse, because zombies eat brains.

7. The vaccine is worse than the disease. Dumb Ass AND a Wimp.

What a combination. Your mother must be proud. Unless you think a sore deltoid for a day is too high a price to pay to prevent two weeks of high fevers, severe muscles aches, and intractable cough.

8. I had the vaccine last year, so I do not need it this year. Uneducated Dumb Ass.

Each year new strains of influenza circulate across the world. Last years vaccine at best provides only partial protection. Every year you need a new shot. And we have a new strain this season, H1N1, so you cannot be a parasite on the immunity of others.

9. The vaccine costs too much. Cheap Dumb Ass.

The vaccine costs less than a funeral, less than Tamiflu, less than a week in the hospital.

10.  I received the vaccine and I got the flu anyway.  Inexact Dumb Ass.

The vaccine is not perfect and you may have indeed had the flu.  More likely you called one of the many colds people get each year the flu.  Remember there are hundreds of potential causes of a respiratory infection circulating, the vaccine only covers influenza, the virus most likely to kill you and yours.

11. I don't believe in the flu vaccine.  Superstitious, Premodern, Magical Thinking Dumb Ass.

What is there to believe in?  Belief is what you do when there is no data. Probably don't believe in gravity or germ theory either. Everyone, I suppose, has to believe in something, and I believe I will have a beer.

12. The government puts tracking nanobots in the vaccine as well as RFID chips as part of the mark of the beast, and the vaccine doesn't work since it is part of a big government sponsored conspiracy to line the pockets of big pharma and inject the American sheeple with exotic new infections in an attempt to control population growth and help usher in a New World Order. Well, that excuse is at least reasonable. Paranoid Dumb Ass.