Another Reason to Get the Flu Shot

Influenza is a common respiratory illness that affects millions of Canadians every year. Although most people recover completely from the flu, and estimated 4,000-8,000 people, mostly seniors die each year. Many others die from complications of influenza. A recent study suggests that influenza can have a negative effect on your baby’s future mental health.

Most people recover within a week or ten days. However, some are at greater risk for more severe and longer-lasting complications, such as pneumonia. The groups at higher risk include very young children, people over 65, pregnant women, people with underlying medical conditions such as chronic respiratory disease, heart or kidney disease, diabetes or a weakened immune system due to cancer, HIV infection, or some other cause.

Another possible health effect related to the flu is Reye’s syndrome, which can develop in children and teenagers who are given salicylates (aspirin) when they have the flu or chickenpox. Reye’s syndrome affects the central nervous system and the liver, and can be fatal. Do not give aspirin to children or teenagers with the flu, unless you are specifically directed to do so by a doctor.

In the US,

Over a period of 31 seasons between 1976 and 2007,estimates of flu-associated deaths in the United States range from a low of about 3,000 to a high of about 49,000 people. During a regular flu season, about 90 percent of deaths occur in people 65 years and older. The “seasonal flu season” in the United States can begin as early as October and last as late as May.

There are some people, who should not get the vaccine, and if you are  not sure, discuss this with your physician. These include

  • People who have a severe allergy to chicken eggs.
  • People who have had a severe reaction to an influenza vaccination.
  • Children younger than 6 months of age (influenza vaccine is not approved for this age group), and
  • People who have a moderate-to-severe illness with a fever (they should wait until they recover to get vaccinated.)
  • People with a history of Guillain–Barré Syndrome (a severe paralytic illness, also called GBS) that occurred after receiving influenza vaccine and who are not at risk for severe illness from influenza should generally not receive vaccine.

A recent study funded by the National Institutes of Health discovers a pregnant mother’s exposure to the flu may have extreme mental health consequences for the child.

If the mother contracts the flu, the child has a nearly four-fold increased chance of developing bipolar disorder in adulthood, say researchers.

The findings add to mounting evidence of possible shared underlying causes and illness processes with s hizophrenia, which some studies have also linked to prenatal exposure to influenza.

Although researchers have suspected a linkage between maternal influenza and bipolar disorder, the new study is the first to prospectively follow families using physician-based diagnoses and structured standardized psychiatric measures.

Researchers followed children born in a northern California county from 1959-1966 and compared 92 who developed bipolar disorder linked to maternal flu diagnoses.

The nearly fourfold increased risk implicated influenza infection at any time during pregnancy, but there was evidence suggesting slightly higher risk if the flu occurred during the second or third trimesters.

Moreover, the researchers linked flu exposure to a nearly six-fold increase in a subtype of bipolar disorder with psychotic features.

Prior research suggested a threefold increased risk for schizophrenia associated with maternal influenza during the first half of pregnancy.

This research is not definitive, but it is certainly another reason to make sure you get the flu shot next fall.

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