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Making an Investment in Your "Future Health"

December 02, 2011

Free Seminar Addresses Importance of Vaccines for Adults

Whether we like it or not, it’s flu season again. But it’s also a good time to get the facts—not only about preventing the flu, but also about adult vaccinations in general, according to Dr. Javeed Siddiqui, M.D., MPH, a Sacramento-based infectious disease specialist and medical director of The Telemedicine Group.

To give community members a better understanding of vaccines and the infectious diseases they protect against, Dr. Siddiqui will present a free Health & Wellness lecture at Washington Hospital next Wednesday, Dec. 7, focusing on adult vaccinations, including those that protect against the flu, pneumonia, and whooping cough.

To get sick or not to get sick

"When we talk about vaccination, it brings up an important philosophical debate of prevention versus treatment," Dr. Siddiqui explains. "In the United States, we tend to be far more concerned with our current health as opposed to our future health. The majority mindset is: if we become ill, we want a pill to make us better. As a result, we don’t think about making an investment now for our future health."

In contrast, adult vaccinations represent an easy, effective step that individuals can take to invest in their future health, he says.

Vaccines contain a killed or weakened part of a disease-causing microorganism such as a virus. After a person receives a vaccine, his or her body reacts by making protective substances called antibodies, which help to kill off these invaders. The vaccinated individual then becomes protected from a disease without getting sick.

Why is the flu shot annual?

Unlike other vaccines, many of which provide protection for years or decades, a ‘flu’ vaccination is needed annually.

"The influenza vaccine is yearly because the viruses causing the ‘flu’ circulate the globe and change on a yearly basis," according to Dr. Siddiqui. "The influenza virus occurs in pigs, humans, and fowl, and there’s an interplay between these species on a yearly basis, which causes the circulating strains of influenza virus to constantly change."

As a result, every year the World Health Organization (WHO) determines the predominant strain of ‘flu,’ and a committee then decides which influenza viruses will be included in a particular year’s "recipe" for the vaccine, he explains.

Investing in prevention

"According to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), 5 percent of health care dollars is spent on prevention; that’s it," Dr. Siddiqui explains. "The rest is spent on treatment. I’m not downgrading the level of treatment opportunities in the United States, but this comes at the cost of a focus on prevention, which is just not at the forefront of our minds.

"Overall, it’s important to talk to lay public and physicians and have that prevention/health discussion."

He also stresses that the effect of getting sick with a disease like the flu has broader reaching implications than just feeling awful.

"Influenza can have a significant impact on one’s health, particularly for the extremely young and elderly, as well as the immuno-compromised," he says. "Additionally, even healthy individuals can be impacted for a week or more, impairing their ability to work, their quality of life, and their interactions with family. When people talk about having influenza, they often refer to it as the worst disease they’ve had."

Plus, viruses can be unpredictable, according to Dr. Siddiqui. A good example is the H1N1 virus, more commonly known as "swine flu."

"We don’t know when the next pandemic is going to occur," he says. "This is not fear mongering; it is just to let individuals know that as our population grows, our exposure to viruses increases quite dramatically. This is particularly true during this time of year when so many of us are out in locations like shopping malls."

Importance of education

The more people understand about infectious diseases and vaccinations, the better, according to Dr. Siddiqui.

"First of all, education is always the most important aspect," he says. "The idea behind this lecture is to further educate. Vaccinations can be a very polarizing subject, but I simply want to present the scientific data about the benefits of vaccinations.

"My goal is not to try to change anyone’s opinion about vaccinations; I just want them to be able to make an educated decision."

Dr. Siddiqui says his ultimate goal is to get people to start thinking about doing something today to protect their health in the future.

The importance of adult vaccinations

To learn more about adult vaccinations, attend the upcoming "Vaccine Update for Adults" seminar, which will take place next Wednesday, Dec. 7, from 2 to 3 p.m. in the Conrad E. Anderson, M.D. Auditorium, located at 2500 Mowry Avenue (Washington West) in Fremont.

To register, call (800) 963-7070 or visit www.whhs.com.

Have you gotten your flu shot?

The best way to prevent the flu is to get an annual flu shot. If you haven’t gotten yours yet, Washington Urgent Care can help with drop-in appointments and short wait times. Board certified physicians also are available to treat symptoms, if you do get sick.

Washington Urgent Care is located at Washington West,
2500 Mowry Avenue, Suite 212 in Fremont. The clinic is open everyday 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., no appointment necessary.

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