Those of us living in the Pacific Northwest are used to a rather prolonged cold and flu season that usually strikes right around when the kids go back to school in the Fall. However, very often a cold virus also circulates in June or July. This year, we are seeing such a virus which is characterized by sore throat, cough, congestion, and the lack of high fever or shortness of breath. Patients are often surprised that colds will circulate this time of year, but some viruses have adapted themselves to strike in the summer months. One should not take an antibiotic for this illness, obviously, since it is a virus and antibiotics don’t work against viruses. I often see physicians prescribe antibiotics just to make their patients happy, but this practice is very unwise. Antibiotics can have significant side-effects and should not be used as a placebo to satisfy patients. If you are ill in the summer and not sure if what you have is indeed this viral process, just schedule a convenient time to come in to the office and we can sort it out together.
We are continuing to check for antibody protection against measles, mumps, and German measles in most patients born in 1957 or later when they come in for their annual exam. The measles outbreak at Disneyland, coupled with an increase in patients refusing to give vaccines to their children means that certain diseases that can be quite high risk are likely to make a resurgence. A substantial number of my patients lack antibodies against measles. Some of these individuals actually have protection from childhood immunization, but the level of antibody protection, while still adequate to prevent measles, is not enough to register on the test. Others may or may not have been vaccinated in childhood, but are unprotected. Because measles can cause permanent brain damage, I recommend everyone who lacks antibody protection have two doses of the MMR vaccine which protects against measles.
Two Newer Vaccines
There are now two vaccines against meningitis B and we are recommending this vaccine for kids well before they go off to college. The Gardasil vaccine, which protects against cervical cancer and genital warts, now has a new (and more expensive) version, Gardasil 9. I recommend all kids around age 9 or 10 start on the 3-shot series of the Gardasil 9 vaccine. We also give Gardasil 9 to adults under certain circumstances. Remember, the older version, Gardasil, is cheaper, but the new Gardasil 9 is better because it protects against 9 strains, instead of 4 strains of the human papilloma virus (HPV) that causes cervical cancer and genital warts, as well as other cancers.