Flu Facts: H1N1 and immunity
For the Nevada Appeal
Editor’s Note: This column appears in the Nevada Appeal Wednesday health pages throughout the flu season. Readers interested in knowing more about this topic are urged to visit http://www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu or http://www.flu.gov
Q: How does immunity to H1N1 work?
A: Immunity is our body’s ability to discriminate between and tolerate or not tolerate various materials in the body. Certain materials are indigenous and belong in our bodies; other things like H1N1 viruses are foreign, and do not belong there. The immune system has ways of mitigating the presence of foreign material.
Our immune system has two ways of acquiring immunity. Surviving an infection is one way and it usually results in lifelong immunity to the disease. This long-term immunity is known as immunologic memory because after exposure to a disease, certain “memory” cells continue to circulate in your blood and reside in your marrow for years. If and when you are re-exposed to the same disease, these memory cells will replicate and produce antibody very rapidly to fight off the infection.
The other way of acquiring immunity is by being vaccinated. Vaccines interact with our immune systems and produce an immune response similar to natural infection, but without having to suffer the symptoms or complications.
Assuming H1N1 has entered your body, the fight is on. The virus particles trigger an immune response. Your B lymphocytes (special white blood cells) create antibodies, also known as immunoglobulins. Their job is to neutralize all the newly replicated viruses in your body before they infect more cells. The memory cells then assure that you are protected in the future.
Many factors may influence one’s immune response to a vaccination. Among them are the nature and dose of the vaccine, the route of administration, your age, nutritional factors, genetics and co-existing disease.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) remind us that vaccination is the #1 best defense against the flu. Vaccinations protect oneself and, as a result, one’s family and community.
CARSON CITY AREA H1N1 VACCINE CLINICS
Where: Carson City Health and Human Services, 900 E. Long St., Carson City
When: Every Thursday at 8:30-11:30 a.m. and 1-4:30 p.m. Closed for lunch.
There is no charge for H1N1 vaccinations
• Pam Graber, Public Information Officer, Carson City Health and Human Services.