Egg-free Flu Vaccine, Iron and Autism, and Concern About Suicide

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September 30, 2014

Flublok — The Egg-Free Flu Vaccine for 2014/2015 Flu season

An egg-free flu vaccine Flublok is now available for the 2014/2015 flu season to immunize against subtypes A and B Influenza virus, just like the traditional flu vaccine. Flublok can be used in adults 18-49 years old who are allergic to eggs. According to Dr. Karen Midthun, director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, “This approval represents a technological advance in the manufacturing of an influenza vaccine … It has the potential for faster start-up of the vaccine manufacturing process in the event of a pandemic, because it is not dependent on an egg supply or on availability of the influenza virus.”

If you have an egg allergy, contact your physician to find out if Flublok is right for you.  More information is available at

Low Iron Intake During Pregnancy and Possible Link to Autism

A study from University of California, Davis, showed a potential link to autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in children whose mothers were 35 years or older and had a lower level of iron intake during and after pregnancy. Obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes are other maternal conditions being linked to a similar risk of having children with ASD.

Dr. Rebecca Schmidt, public health sciences professor at UC Davis and lead author of this study, hypothesized that perhaps ASD is caused by a combination of multiple risk factors and she believes more studies are needed.

Until further studies are done, it is prudent for pregnant women to take iron supplements during pregnancy and breast feeding. Pregnant patients should be proactive in asking their obstetrician about their “blood count” which is checked routinely twice during their pregnancy. If they are anemic or even borderline anemic, even without symptoms of anemia such as fatigue, dizziness or shortness of breath etc. , they should be eating a high iron diet and taking extra iron supplements. The same authors in 2011 reported an association between increased intake of folic acid and a decreased risk of autism spectrum disorder. This association was replicated later in larger studies. They also reported a low iron level in children with ASD.

The study was published online September 22 in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

Suicide: Troubling Rising Rates

Over the past several decades, we have seen a tragically high incidence of suicides. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that in 2012 there were more than 800,000 suicides worldwide – one person dying by suicide every 40 seconds. The United States too has seen a sharp increase of suicides in recent years, particularly among those 35-64 years old. In fact, last year the CDC reported that in the US, there now are more deaths from suicide than from car accidents (approximately 34,000 deaths/year from motor vehicle accidents; approximately 38,000 deaths/year from suicide).
Recognizing the global health crisis, just this month, the WHO issued its first report ever on suicide prevention. The bottom line for all countries including our own is to overcome the age-old taboo against talking about suicide, and then work in a coordinated fashion throughout the health, education, social welfare and other relevant sectors to educate with an emphasis on early identification and prevention.
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