The ABC’s of the Influenza Vaccine

22 Dec 2017

The 2017-2018 flu season is off to an early start, and data so far suggests it could be a doozy. To help prepare—or just help you brush up on your flu facts—here are answers to every critical flu question you might ever have…Well, hopefully!

What is the flu?

The flu (influenza) is a contagious respiratory infection caused by the influenza virus. In the US, flu forces 140,000 to 710,000 people into hospitals and causes 12,000 to 56,000 deaths annually. The hardest hit are children, the elderly, and people with a compromised immune system.

You’ve probably heard that there are a few different types of the flu. Influenza A and B are the two main types that routinely spread in humans and cause seasonal flu epidemics.

What are the symptoms of the flu?

Some flu symptoms may be similar to cold symptoms, including:

  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Sore throat
  • Itchy or watery eyes
  • Low fever
  • Fatigue

The true difference between cold and flu symptoms, however, is their severity.

How does one get the flu?

The three most common ways that the flu spreads are by:

  •  Direct contact with infected individuals.
  •  Direct contact with contaminated objects (such as toys, doorknobs).
  •  Direct inhalation of particles generated by coughing or sneezing.

What should I do if I get the flu?

Lifestyle measures such as resting more, drinking fluids, taking Tylenol/Motrin for fevers and antihistamines for congestion may decrease the severity of your symptoms. Your doctor may also recommend anti-virals (i.e., Tamiflu) which lessen the severity and shorten the duration of the flu.

It’s important to remember that antibiotics will not help you recover from the flu!

How long is the flu contagious?

Adults are the most contagious with the flu 24 hours before symptoms start (You’re likely out there spreading the virus before you ever know that you have it!) up to three to five days after they get sick.

Can I avoid catching or spreading the flu?

YES!

  • Get vaccinated. It is especially important if you are pregnant, 2, over the age 50, or have any chronic medical condition.
  • Build a germ barrier by avoiding sick people, washing your hands, using hand sanitizers, disinfecting surfaces and taking care of yourself (sleeping, maintaining a balanced diet, and quitting smoking).

How effective is the flu vaccine?

The overall effectiveness of last season’s vaccine was 42%. It is believed to be even less effective this year. Although seemingly bleak, low vaccine effectiveness can still decrease the severity of your symptoms and prevent millions of deaths/illnesses and tens of thousands of hospitalizations.

Can I get the flu from the flu shot?

This is one of the dominant flu myths that has persisted for as long as we can remember. It simply is not true!  Flu vaccines use inactive strains of the flu virus. You cannot catch a “live virus” from a dead/inactive part of a virus.

Some people may develop mild body aches, fatigue, muscle pain, and a low fever after a flu shot, but it is simply your body’s immune system kicking in.  These symptoms are usually very mild and typically go away in a day or so.

At Memorial Village ER, we are open 24-hours to address all of your influenza concerns. Stop by to talk to one of our board-certified emergency physicians and check out our website https://memorialvillageer.com to get more information about surviving the 2017-2018 flu season.