Immunity in the Community
Updated: Aug 3
If you live in a well populated area of the country, such as a large urban setting or even in the suburbs of smaller towns and cities, you likely have a lot of neighbors and social interaction. When you go to the grocery store, the mall, restaurants or any other retail establishments, it is very likely that you have close contact with hundreds if not thousands of other individuals within proximity of where you are. Being around a lot of people can be fun, but it can also cause healthcare issues if your immune system is weakened or compromised for any reason.
Your immune system is a complex network of organs, cells and proteins that defends the body against infection, while also protecting the body's own cells. The immune system keeps a record of every germ (microbe) it has ever defeated so it can recognize and destroy the microbe quickly if it enters the body again. Your immune system works hard to keep you healthy. Its job is to keep germs out of your body, destroy them or limit the extent of their harm if they get in, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
When your immune system is working properly: When your immune system is working properly, it can tell which cells are yours and which substances are foreign to your body. It activates, mobilizes, attacks and kills foreign invader germs that can cause you harm. Your immune system learns about germs after you’ve been exposed to them too. Your body develops antibodies to protect you from those specific germs. An example of this concept occurs when you get a vaccine.
Your immune system builds up antibodies to foreign cells in the vaccine and will quickly remember these foreign cells and destroy them if you are exposed to them in the future. Sometimes doctors can prescribe antibiotics to help your immune system if you get sick. But antibiotics only kill certain bacteria. They don’t kill viruses.
When your immune system is not working properly: When your immune system can’t mount a winning attack against an invader, a problem, such as an infection, develops. Also, sometimes your immune system mounts an attack when there is no invader or doesn’t stop an attack after the invader has been killed. These activities result in such problems as autoimmune diseases and allergic reactions.
Your immune system is made of up a complex collection of cells and organs. Many deficiencies and disorders can damage or disrupt your immune system. Some medicines make it harder for your body to fight infection. Certain health conditions cause your immune system to attack healthy cells or make it hard for your immune system to protect you from harmful germs. More detailed information about the immune system and how it works can be found at the Cleveland Clinic website: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/21196-immune-system
According to the National Library of Medicine, there are three different types of immunity:
Innate immunity is the protection that you are born with. It is your body's first line of defense. It includes barriers such as the skin and mucous membranes. They keep harmful substances from entering the body. It also includes some cells and chemicals which can attack foreign substances.
Active immunity, also called adaptive immunity, develops when you are infected with or vaccinated against a foreign substance. Active immunity is usually long-lasting. For many diseases, it can last your entire life.
Passive immunity happens when you receive antibodies to a disease instead of making them through your own immune system. For example, newborn babies have antibodies from their mothers. People can also get passive immunity through blood products that contain antibodies. This kind of immunity gives you protection right away. But it only lasts a few weeks or months.
Over time, there is a natural immunity within the population that reduces or eliminates the healthcare threats that come about through exposure to diseases. Herd immunity (or community immunity), according to APIC (Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology) occurs when a high percentage of the community is immune to a disease (through vaccination and/or prior illness), making the spread of this disease from person to person unlikely. Even individuals not vaccinated (such as newborns and the immunocompromised) are offered some protection because the disease has little opportunity to spread within the community.
Vaccines prevent many dangerous and deadly diseases. In the United States, smallpox and polio have both been stamped out because of vaccination. However, there are certain groups of people who cannot get vaccinated and are vulnerable to disease: babies, pregnant women, and immunocompromised people, such as those receiving chemotherapy or organ transplants. For example, the earliest a baby can receive their first pertussis or whooping cough vaccine is at two months, and the earliest a child can receive their first measles vaccine is at one year, making them vulnerable to these diseases.
Herd immunity depends on the contagiousness of the disease. Diseases that spread easily, such as measles, require a higher number of immune individuals in a community to reach herd immunity. Herd immunity protects the most vulnerable members of our population. If enough people are vaccinated against dangerous diseases, those who are susceptible and cannot get vaccinated are protected because the germ will not be able to “find” those susceptible individuals. More information can be found at the APIC website: https://apic.org/monthly_alerts/herd-immunity/
When there is no immunity, diseases that are highly contagious or infectious can decimate a population or severely impact the health of individuals and the community at large. The lack of immunity toward the Covid-19 virus during the last few years has shown what a pandemic can do when there is no previous encounter with it. There is a certain percentage of the population that has a strong natural immunity, and new viruses have a tendency over time tends to be reduced in their impact on people, especially if measures are developed to prevent the spread of communicable diseases.
Historically, until a strong community defense is built up in the general population, the effects of certain diseases can be detrimental to the health and safety of everyone. In the Middle Ages, the "Black Plague" in Europe wiped out massive numbers of people. Exposure to European settlers in America during the 1500's to the 1700's destroyed the native American populations. In the late 19th and early 20th century, the Spanish Flu killed millions of individuals. In the 1980's, AIDS was the feared disease, especially in the gay community. Immunity to disease needs constant care and attention.
How can you improve your immune system? On the whole, your immune system does a remarkable job of defending you against disease-causing microorganisms. But sometimes it fails: A germ invades successfully and makes you sick. Is it possible to intervene in this process and boost your immune system? What if you improve your diet? Take certain vitamins or herbal preparations? Make other lifestyle changes in the hope of producing a near-perfect immune response?
According to Harvard Health, Your first line of defense is to choose a healthy lifestyle. Following general good-health guidelines is the single best step you can take toward naturally keeping your immune system working properly. Every part of your body, including your immune system, functions better when protected from environmental assaults and bolstered by healthy-living strategies such as these:
Eat a diet high in fruits and vegetables.
Maintain a healthy weight.
If you drink alcohol, drink only in moderation.
Get adequate sleep.
Take steps to avoid infection, such as washing your hands frequently and cooking meats thoroughly.
Try to minimize stress.
Keep current with all recommended vaccines. Vaccines prime your immune system to fight off infections before they take hold in your body.
Here are some of the common symptoms that indicate your body's immune system is not functioning well:
Your stress level is very high all the time.
You always have a cold or easily catch one.
You have lots of stomach issues and often get diarrhea.
Your wounds are slow to heal.
You get frequent infections.
You feel tired all the time.
You have chronic skin problems such as eczema or rashes.
You are constantly needing to take medications for one reason or another.
You have chronic muscle and joint aches.
You frequently get high fevers.
Building up and maintaining immunity to disease can be challenging for most people. A healthy lifestyle can help you thrive as you move through your life's journey. Making healthy choices isn't always easy – it can be hard to find the time and energy to exercise regularly or prepare healthy meals. Taking care of your body and your health keeps you healthy. Your efforts will pay off in many ways, and for the rest of your life. Choosing healthy products for your lifestyle can help improve your quality of life.
For affordable solutions to help improve your health and wellness, visit this website for products and services that provide great ways to keep a healthy lifestyle in focus and build your immunity. The community needs a healthy you.