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Thursday, 20 February 2014

Do You need jabs, antibiotics?

OUR population is getting more and more educated and knowledgeable. With the convenience of internet and smart phone, information can be assessed anytime and anywhere.

Facebook and Google have become the source of reference for most people. Many can now be “experts” in many specialised fields, including engineering, law and even medicine.

Nowadays, the medical practitioners enounter some patients who are so-called internet savvy, and refuse antibiotics and vaccines.

This issue arose due to the spread of such information in the internet, claiming antibiotics could lead to “superbug” and are associated with many adverse effects, while vaccines could cause autism or death.
Well, the risks of administration of both drugs are certainly debatable.

What we know for a fact is that since Alexander Flemming discovered penicillin and the pox vaccine, many lives were saved.

Nevertheless, I am not in the position to comment on the good and bad of both antibiotics and vaccines. But, it is more important for the general public to understand more about the need for antibiotics and vaccines.

Antibiotics or more specifically antibacterial, is a medicine indicated to kill (bactericidal) or inhibit the growth (bacteriostatic) of the bacteria.

There are various types of antibiotics with different mode of actions and indications. Strictly speaking, the mechanism of action for antibiotics is rather complicated.

However, it works mainly to counter attack the rapid reproduction of bacterial colonies, so that our immune system has enough time to defeat the illness.

Thus, the usage of antibiotics is strictly limited to the bacterial infection. In common clinical conditions, like acute exudative tonsillitis, abscess formation and urinary tract infection, antibiotics are strongly prescribed.

It must be understood that antibiotics have no role in curing diseases caused by fungus, virus or other parasites.

Therefore, it should not be overprescribed in cases like common cough and cold, flu and fungal infection of skin.

As for vaccines, they are biological preparations that help to boost immunity. Its primary focus is on disease prevention. It is always better to prevent a disease than to treat it.

Vaccines work by introducing the weakened form of “disease germ” into the body. The body will respond by producing antibodies to fight these invaders. At this stage, technically, the immune system is being sensitised. If the actual disease germ attacks the body, more antibodies will be produced to destroy the real enemy.

Vaccines are responsible for the control of many infectious diseases that were once common in this country and around the world, including polio, measles, diphtheria, pertussis (whooping cough), rubella (German measles), mumps, tetanus, Hepatitis B and Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib).

Many patients question the need for further vaccination as diseases such as diphtheria, pertussis are very rare these days.

Furthermore, there are people that do not get vaccination, yet able to live healthily until old age. This is the myth behind “herd immunity”.

Herd immunity serves as a preventive barrier as most of the population had been vaccinated, thus, the disease is contained from spreading. If herd immunity is compromised, the widespread of the disease may occur.

A piece of advice to all, a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. Before you start to tell doctors about the negative effects of antibiotics and vaccines, why not, give them a chance to explain to you before you make a decision.

Contributed by DR H.B. CHEE, Muar, Johor The Star/Asia News Network

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