On Flu, and the flu vaccine

The flu season is well under way in the US. According to news reports, Burt Reynolds was hospitalised with the flu and shock goth rocker Marylin Manson collapsed on stage because he had the flu. It hasn’t reached South African shores yet, but it will. And I intend to get a flu shot before it does. Flu vaccine is not yet available here, though.
There is a reason why we will never be rid of the flu, and why we have to change the vaccine every year. Influenza, to give it its full name, affects not just humans, but birds and pigs. That’s why reference is made to bird flu and swine flu. Because of this, flu can mutate very rapidly. There are literally hundreds of known strains.
There are two main types of vaccine: an injectable trivalent vaccine which contains killed viruses from three strains of flu; and a nasal spray of attenuated (weakened but still live) flu.
To make a flu vaccine, three strains are selected and grown in embryonated chicken eggs. After the virus is grown, the eggs are opened and the virus is extracted. It is then processed to kill or attenuate it, and loaded into syringes and/or sprays.
Because of egg allergies and the concerns of vegans, alternatives to using eggs to create the vaccine have been studied. One way is to create virus-like particles. These contain influenza antigens but not the virus coding elements. Abbie Smith who blogs at erv, mentioned a vaccine in development named Flublok. Cliff notes version is that influenza genes were inserted into an insect virus which was then injected into insect cell lines. The virus then created influenza proteins which, when purified, were used to make a vaccine. Very clever.
About ten years ago, I had the worst bout of flu I’d ever had. I was in bed for two days because I didn’t have the energy to get up. The only thing I ate was a banana which I promptly vomited up. On day three I was able to get up but I still felt like death warmed over. A few days later I went to gym. I never made that mistake again.
In all, I was sick for three whole weeks and lost almost 10kg. That was enough. I try to get jabbed every year. Discovery, my medical aid, will not only pay for the inocculation, it will award me points on my account. This is because every Rand Discovery spends on flu prevention saves it several Rands in doctor’s fees and medicines. I would still get it even if this wasn’t the case.


About autismjungle

I am a Software Test Analyst. Shortly before I turned 21 I was officially diagnosed, although I had long suspected I was autistic. Welcome to my blog
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