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Flu Shots and Alzheimer's panic-
    spam and rumor edition

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      Ahhhh, here it is. Another excuse to push the panic button.

      And another excuse to NOT take preventative care of yourself in the off chance that there just might be something to it.

      You've probably heard the news around the coffee pot at work or received a forwarded copy of part of a study something along the lines of the following which has also been posted with shrieking headlines on some of the PANIC OF THE WEEK websites... none of whom actually check these things out. Well, nobody except the Desk that is.

      In the Desk's case, one of its day job coworkers was about to run out to the front desk and make an announcement over the PA system that there was something new to worry about.

      So, here we go- the Desk's DEBUNKING OF THE WEEK : panic email and website posting quoted below

"According to Hugh Fudenberg, MD, the world's leading immunogeneticist and 13th most quoted biologist of our times (nearly 850 papers in peer review journals), if an individual has had five consecutive flu shots between 1970 and 1980 (the years studied) his/her chances of getting Alzheimer's Disease is ten times higher than if they had one, two or no shots. I asked Dr. Fudenberg why this was so and he said it was due to the mercury and aluminum that is in every flu shot (and most childhood shots). The gradual mercury and aluminum buildup in the brain causes cognitive dysfunction."
end SPAM

      And here's where it gets tricky.

      YES. Thimerosal does contain some mercury. And although the people that make the flu vaccine, such as Glaxo Smith Kline, admit they still use thimerosal in the adult version of the vaccine, the amounts used have been greatly reduced since the shots were given to the patients in the study, something over twenty years ago. (Most pediatric vaccines haven't contained it in several years.) And, mercury is one of those rare poisons that will accumulate in the body over time. And as with anything else, it is the dose that makes the poison.

      So... questions from the audience... How much Mercury are we talking about in the vaccine? How often do you get a flu shot, or any shot, with thimerosal in it? And over how many years will it take for those shots to equal .... say... the amount of mercury in a tuna salad submarine sandwich? And then, how much of it will it take to do anything to you? And finally, does mercury exposure cause Alzheimer's?

      Long answers below- Short answers here: The mercury in one shot is almost too small to be measured. One shot, once a year, will most likely NOT increase your exposure in any significant amount. And there is no direct evidence that there is any causal relationship between mercury and Alzheimer's.

And now the long answers from the people that don't send out panic emails.

    There's no evidence that influenza vaccine increases the risk of Alzheimer's disease. Inactivated influenza vaccine used in the United States may contain thimerosal, a preservative that contains a very small amount of mercury. There's no evidence that the mercury in thimerosal is harmful at these low levels.
    Alzheimer's is a complex illness involving damage to and degeneration of the neurons within the brain. Its cause isn't fully understood. But it may be due to abnormal protein (amyloid) deposits and inflammation in the brain. It was once thought that aluminum contributed to this process. But most experts believe that there's no clear evidence to support this theory. Influenza vaccine doesn't contain aluminum.

And then we have a statement from the resource page from the Center's for Disease Control.

    Today, with the exception of some Influenza (flu) vaccines, none of the vaccines used in the U.S. to protect preschool children against 12 infectious diseases contain thimerosal as a preservative.

    The CDC's mercury in vaccines resource page and their Q and A page. Both at

      Now on to exactly how much mercury is in that shots that contain it.

      According to the people that keep track of this kind of thing... from Johns Hopkins.... Each shot contains less than one tenth of one percent of thimerosal. Which comes out to 25 micrograms of the element per half a milliliter. How much is that? You'd need a chemist to explain it since it takes one thousand micrograms to make one milligram which is one thousandth of a gram. And .5 milliliter is about one fifth of a teaspoon. But, just a ballpark type estimate- how much is it actually? It comes out to something like this- if you had enough of the vaccine to fill a swimming pool, you might end up with a bit of liquid mercury about the size of a couple of cashews. If you want to figure it out more exactly, start here-

      The site linked above, Vaccine Safety, also contains a list of flu shots, and other vaccines, WITHOUT thimerosal for children and adults. Which shoots the SPAM posting right in the.... tushie.

      To summarize, if you did nothing but get flu shots and eat tuna sandwiches three times a day, chewing with your silver fillings we might add, you might sooner or later come down with "the Mad Hatter's Disease", but not Alzheimer's... or the flu. See for more symptoms of mercury poisoning.

Links to sites used in the article
will open in new window The US Government's Centers for Disease Control. A service of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. US Pharmacy chain with large Health Library online.

For more information about the flu itself from Sanofi Pasteur, a vaccine manufacturer. A huge site of various conversion tables based in the UK. All sorts of medical stuff.

[NOTE: The Desk is NOT affiliated with ANY of the above... etc etc. And, for the record, it will get a flu shot if given the chance this year. thank you ]

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