Thursday, September 1, 2011

Egg allergy and immunizations

Statistics throw up some interesting facts:

  • In 2005/6 the poultry industry produced some 195 million dozen eggs.
  • 1 in 20 infants will develop an allergic response to eggs
  • 80% of those children will grow out of the problem by the time they reach school age.
  • Major reactions to eggs - such as Anaphylaxis - are fortunately extremely rare.

Many of the vaccinations we use these days are cultured using chicken eggs and although they go through a stringent purifying process, they do retain traces of egg protein (or Ovalbumin as it is called). In the current climate where influenza pandemics seem to threaten the world on an almost annual basis, concerns have been raised as to the safety of Influenza vaccines in those people with a known egg allergy.

Well the good news is that after a review of 17 studies and more than 2600 egg allergic patients, it seems that bad reactions are a rarity. The vast majority of those who received the vaccines suffered no more than the general population and when reactions did occur, they were of a mild to moderate nature - local soreness, hives and some wheezing. This is good news as influenza can be a killer with some of the recent emerging viruses having a 20 to 30% kill rate.

What this means for those with an egg allergy is that it is safer to have the vaccine under appropriately specialized medical supervision, than to not have the vaccine at all. People with previous reactions to egg protein need to inform their Physicians so that the vaccine can be given in a medical setting and the patient observed for 30 minutes after the vaccine. For those who have previously had an anaphylactic type reaction to eggs, then they should seek the guidance of a specialist Immunologist before they undergo immunizations containing egg protein.

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