WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
- As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announces the flu season is starting to ramp up, researchers said that excess weight diminishes the effects of flu shots.
- According to NPR, scientists first noticed the problem during the 2009 flu outbreak when the infection seemed worse in patients with excess weight.
- Flu vaccine potentially is not working well on people with excess weight due to problems with their immune system, says Prof. Melinda Beck of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Scientists have discovered that excess weight lessens the effects of flu shots. That’s not good news because almost 93.3 million adult Americans and 13.7 million children and adolescents between 2015 and 2016 are obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Recently, the agency announced that flu season this year is starting to affect more people in several states across the US. There have been government campaigns promoting flu shots, however, overweight and obese people may not get the same benefits from the vaccine.
“We had never seen that before,” infectious disease specialist Stacey Schultz-Cherry of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, said. “The virus is able to grow to higher [concentrations] and spread deeper in your lungs, which is not what you want during an influenza infection.”
Additionally, people with excess weight also spread the disease faster than average weight patients. The reason is that they exhale more virus, according to a study at the University of Maryland.
Melinda Beck, a professor of nutrition at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, believes that flu vaccine is not working well on people with excess weight due to problems with their immune system, adding that “overweight people experience changes in their metabolism that affect various cells, including immune system cells.”
Schultz-Cherry is now teaming up with the National Institutes of Health to develop a new flu vaccine that “will work for everybody, but especially for these higher-risk populations.”
Though the new vaccine is expected to take years to develop, Schultz-Cherry advises people of all body types to continue taking existing flu shots to reduce their risk of infection.
Source: Medical Daily