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Talk with the Doc: The human immune system and ‘herd’ immunity

With the current corona virus pandemic in the United States and world wide, there are many scientists working very diligently to come up with an effective vaccine to reduce the significant healthcare impact of this virus. They are also evaluating and working on the various treatments options for the many people who have been infected with this virus. Therefore, I believe it is timely at this time to again review the importance of our human immune system and vaccines that can provide “herd” immunity.

Human Immune System – The overall function of our human immune system is to prevent or limit infection. The primary job of our immune system is to distinguish between our normal, healthy cells and possible other dangerous cells, such as viruses and bacteria that may come into our blood stream. Our immune system is always on duty to look for and recognize these possible infectious viruses and bacteria. The immune system looks closely at these potentially infectious cells to do all it can to prevent us from getting an infection.

Know that we rely on our immune system every day to help us fight off infections and keep us healthy. Our immune system contains numerous cell types that either circulate throughout the body or reside in our particular body tissues. Each cell type plays a unique role, with different ways of performing their function to fight off infections. Further, many world wide medical and scientific researchers are working diligently at this time to develop a vaccine to effectively prevent the corona virus.

Vaccines – When we receive a vaccine in our body, our powerful human immune system notes that this is a foreign potentially dangerous substance and promptly begins to make antibodies to fight it off. Here is the true positive impact of vaccines on USA health today. Our federal government reports that because of USA children receiving the recommended childhood immunizations, around 20 million illnesses and more than 40,000 deaths are prevented, resulting in approximately $70 billion in health care savings. Vaccinations are effective primarily due to two factors. First, once a person is immunized against a specific disease producing organism, the rate of that disease, as well as its associated asymptomatic carrier state, is decreased. Second, when a large population is immunized, unvaccinated individuals may also benefit from a reduced risk of exposure to these disease producing organisms.

“Herd” Immunity – Herd immunity is a form of indirect protection from infectious disease that occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population has become immune to an infection, whether from vaccination or from previous infections, thereby reducing the likelihood of infection for individuals who lack immunity. Following is a brief review of the two ways we can receive “herd” immunity.

So, how do we achieve herd immunity? There are two ways this can happen. 1. We can develop resistance naturally. When our body is exposed to a virus or bacteria, it makes antibodies to fight off the infection. When we recover, our body keeps these antibodies, and then our body will defend against another infection of this type. 2. Vaccines will also build herd immunity. They make your body think a virus or a bacteria has infected it. You don’t get sick, but your immune system still makes protective antibodies. The next time your body meets that bacteria or virus, it is ready to fight it off. Perhaps the greatest example the effectiveness of vaccines is the fact that the Salk vaccine essentially eliminated polio in the United States.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Dr. Jim Surrell is the author of “The ABC’s For Success In All We Do” and the “SOS (Stop Only Sugar) Diet” books.Contact Dr. Surrell by email at sosdietdoc@gmail.com.

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