The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

Immunization and Influenza

A tormentor visits Guilford’s campus and other corners of the world every fall and winter, claiming its victims through coughs and sneezes. There were individuals in the past that could not escape it and died. But, there were also people who survived and fought against this agent of death — influenza — through vaccinations.

“This is a detective story,” said a Molecular Pathologist and Virologist at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Jeffery Taubenberger to The New York Times. “Here was a mass murderer … who’s never been brought to justice, and what we’re trying to do is find the murderer (influenza).”

Influenza, a life-threatening infectious disease also known as the flu, spreads during seasonal epidemics and causes millions of deaths worldwide.

The Center for Disease Control estimated that during the 2013­–2014 influenza season, U.S. mortality rates related to influenza exceeded the epidemic threshold. The increased death toll confirmed emergence of new flu viruses.

Influenza outbreaks that occurred in the past resulted in new virus strains, which infect animals and spread to humans. These viruses start to mutate and evolve into incurable forms of the disease once they adapt to living hosts.

“Influenza viruses are not stable genetically,” said Taubenberger in an interview with the Public Broadcasting Service. “This is presumably an adaptation of the virus, to evade the host immune response, so that the influenza virus that was circulating last year is not the same as the influenza circulating this year.”

Fortunately, today’s medical technology makes it possible to prevent influenza through the development of new vaccines.

The most common vaccine of the 2014–2015 flu season is quadrivalent vaccine, which fights four enteroviruses. Enteroviruses are single-stranded RNA viruses that reside in mucus, saliva and other respiratory reserves.

“There are four strains of flu in the flu vaccine,” said Kristi Gallimore, a nurse at Eagle Physicians & Associates. “It takes two weeks for the body to build up immunity to the flu.”

Although vaccines may trigger autoimmune disorders, doctors recommend that everyone gets a flu shot.

“The vaccines do not carry significant risks of causing health complications because they are given in low doses,” said Kayoko Goto, an exchange student and former nurse at St. Marianna University Hospital in Tokyo, Japan. “In Japan, it is suggested that people get vaccinated to suppress flu symptoms.”

Guilford students who have already received their flu shot believe that completing immunization procedures ensures a stronger immune system.

“I think flu shots are very important because they help you build up immunity to flu,” said sophomore biology major Caroleigh Anthony.

With an increasing awareness of infectious diseases, vaccinations remain an important preventive measure against flu viruses.

Defining Terms:

1. An autoimmune disorder occurs when the body’s immune system attacks and destroys healthy body tissue by mistake. There are more than 80 types of autoimmune disorders.

2. An epidemic threshold refers to a threshold above which viruses can spread explosively and cause epidemics.

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