,,.. that is the question. It’s officially flu season and the our friend has come with a vengeance. With the virus running rampant in the US, what does that mean for those of us with autoimmune diseases? While many turn to the flu vaccine to provide protection, there is a question as to whether or not the vaccine is advisable for people with MG.
If you don’t think the flu is in your area, you are sadly mistaken. Just look at this map from the CDC.
Crazy right? Basically the entire map is brown.
What is the flu?
The flu is a highly contagious respiratory illness caused by the influenza virus. Flu season typically occurs in the fall and winter with peak outbreaks occurs in January/February. When I say the flu is highly contagious I’m not joking.
You can contract the flu from someone 6 feet away from you if they sneeze or cough and those infectious germs fly through the air and land in your nose or mouth. You can also contract the flu by touching a surface that has the virus on it and then touching your nose or mouth. Symptoms may take as long as 4 days to appear so it’s possible to be sick and contagious and don’t even know it.
Causes for Concern
So if the flu is a problem everywhere, what’s the big deal about having MG during the flu season? I’m glad you asked. Among others such as people with asthma, kids under 5 and adults over 65, people who have a weakened immune system due to disease (MG) or medication (immunosuppressants) are at a higher risk of developing flu-related complications. Some of these complications include pneumonia, bronchitis and long term hospitalization.
Oh Prednisone and Cellcept: Thanks so much. While I appreciate you suppressing my symptoms, I don’t appreciate you making me so susceptible to this beast of a disease.
Are vaccinations the answer?
Many believe that the best way to prevent the flu is to get the vaccination. Religiously every year people get the vaccine prior to the start of flu season to stay in tip top shape. They work by causing antibodies to develop in the body which protect against infection.
That may work for the average Joe but when you’re already suffering from an autoimmune disease and taking medications that suppress your immune system, it’s another story. Is it wise to inject the virus into your body at the risk of ? The experts say yes.
Believe it or not, the CDC recommends (actually urges) that even those of us with MG get the flu vaccine . Typically vaccinations are composed of weakened viruses that are injected into the body to cause your immune system to create and build up the antibodies needed to fight off any future encounters. Well the flu vaccine doesn’t contain any active virus strains. So the threat to us MGers is minimal.
In full disclosure, you will feel a little sore and achy after getting your vaccination. But in comparison to the crisis or flare up you risk by getting the full fledge flu, I think you can take a little ache.
Morg vs the Flu
I personally haven’t gotten the vaccination. At first I was using the rationale that “it may hurt me”, but now that I’ve done the research that excuse is no longer valid. In all honesty I just have my qualms with vaccinations. After the rigorous treatment plan I’ve been on for my MG, the less medicine I put into myself, the happier I am.
As luck (or unluck) would have it, my little brother has the flu. Of course we didn’t find out until a day after I was around him. Little outbreak had a fever and just wanted to cuddle and as that caring considerate big sister that I am, I obliged. Thankfully I trusted my gut and wore a mask when I was around him so it remains to be seen if I will be infected or not.
I called my specialist and explained to him I was exposed to the flu. I wanted to explore my possible options. He gave me a list of OTC medications to stay away from. But he urged me that at the first influx of symptoms to go get Tamiflu and shut it down. He also urged me to go get the vaccination if I managed to get off scot free this time. (Eyeroll)
I’ll keep y’all posted as to whether or not the Flu got me.
Until next time, stay flu free!!
P.S. Wash your hands man! (A very effective method to minimize risk of getting flu)