Dr. Ali Nazari joined Chelsey in the studio to talk about something we all dread, the flu. There are many misconceptions about the flu shot and how it affects you. The following information was provided by Dr. Nazari:
1. When is the flu season in the U.S.?
a. Historically it has been between October to May, peaking in the months of December and February.
2. Why is it important to get the flu vaccination?
a. Relatively high burden on the healthcare and the community. According to CDC estimates, since 2010, influenza has resulted in roughly 9.3 million – 49.0 million illnesses, between 140,000 – 960,000 hospitalizations and between 12,000 – 79,000 deaths annually.
b. Influenza is a contagious respiratory illness and can cause mild to severe disease. Flu vaccination has shown to reduce the risk of flu illness by about 40%-60%.
3. How is the flu virus transmitted?
a. It is mainly spread through droplets through coughing, sneezing or talking. A person with flu can spread it to others within a 6 feet perimeter. It can also be spread by touching surfaces that have recently meet the flu virus and then touching one’s own mouth, and nose. Some examples of these surfaces are work desks, doorknobs, shopping carts, shared counters. Flu virus has been known to live on surfaces for up to 2 days.
4. What are the signs and symptoms of flu infection?
a. Sore throat, cough, runny nose, muscle/body aches, fever, feeling congested, feeling tired. Children can have vomiting or diarrhea.
5. How long does one feel sick from the flu?
a. Anywhere from about 1 week to 2 weeks.
6. Who are at risk of getting the flu?
a. Everyone is at risk but there are special populations who are at a greater risk of getting the flu infection as well as suffering complications from the flu infection. These groups are: people age 65 and older, children under 2 years of age, pregnant women during pregnancy and up to 2 weeks after pregnancy. Also, people with lung and heart disease as well as immunocompromised patients such as people with diabetes, cancers, kidney disease.
7. What are some complications of flu infection.
a. Flu infection can cause complications by itself or by another viral or bacterial co-infection. These complications can be related to ear, nose and throat infections. Development of lung infections such as pneumonia which can be fatal in certain at-risk populations. Furthermore, flu infection can worsen lung diseases such as asthma, COPD and heart conditions such as heart failure.
8. How do you prevent the flu infection transmission?
a. Number one method is to get your flu shot every year. Number 2 is to stay home if you are sick. CDC recommends staying home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone without the aid of fever reducing medications. Cover your cough or sneezing by wearing a mask preferably if you have one. If you don’t have a mask, you can use a tissue. If you have neither, then you can use your upper sleeve. Discard your tissue in the trash every time you use one. Never cover your sneeze or cough with your hands because you can touch items that will easily meet others. Wash hands frequently with soap and water or with alcohol-based hand sanitizers. Disinfect surfaces by cleaning with EPA approved wipes such as Lysol or Clorox.
9. Why do we have to get flu shot every year?
a. Because the flu virus is good at undergoing mutations and the virus can change from one season to another. Also, our immune’s response to the vaccination decline over the course of the year. Annual immunizations have shown to prevent flu transmission and reduce the severity of the flu infection if one gets it.
10. How do you treat the flu infection?
a. You can treat it with antiviral drugs. Usually the recommendation is to treat within 48 hours after symptoms start. Stay well hydrated and drink plenty of water. Can take over-the-counter medications such as Ibuprofen, and Tylenol for fever and pain as needed. It is important not to exceed the total daily dose of either one of them due to adverse side effects. Flu will resolve on its own but people should seek medical help if they are concerned about their symptoms. It is important to know that most people do not need to go to the Emergency Department and should seek help from their primary care doctor unless they have shortness of breath, chest discomfort, difficulty with keeping food and fluids down and unstable vital signs.
11. Can the flu vaccination give you the flu?
a. No. This is a common misconception. The flu vaccination does not contain the complete flu virus. It only has components of the virus and prepared in such a way that it cannot give you the flu infection.
12. What are the common side effects of the flu shot?
a. Pain and redness and possibly swelling at the site of injection. People may feel fever, headaches, body aches that may last 1-2 days. These are mostly the immune response to prepare antibodies to fight an actual flu infection. These symptoms do not indicate that you have flu infection from the flu vaccination.
13. I have never gotten sick. Why should I get the flu vaccination?
a. It is difficult to predict whether someone will get the flu during a season. The important thing to remember is that everyone is at risk of flu infection and any single episode of flu infection can lead to a serious infection. Remember that based on CDC statistics, roughly 12,000 – 79, 000 people die from flu infections yearly. So, the idea is to 1) prevent flu infection. 2) reduce the severity of the infection and 3) prevent complications from the flu infections. People should also consider getting flu vaccination due to the idea of herd immunity where if one person is vaccinated and protected, they won’t transmit to others. This is important for care-takers of sick people, elderly people as well as care-takers, parents and visiting friends and family members of infants and children under the 6 months of age.
14. When should you get flu vaccination?
a. CDC’s recommendation is to get it by the end of October. But getting it later is still protective.
15. Can people with egg allergies get flu vaccination?
a. Yes. People with egg allergies can safely get flu vaccination. Only caveat is that, if someone has had severe egg allergies in that past, should get the flu vaccination in a health care setting where a health care provider is giving the flu vaccination.
For more information, please contact Providence Medical Group at (251) 666-2439.