Last week’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report on this year’s influenza outbreak was not positive: 49 states reporting widespread flu activity for the third week in a row; 37 children dead so far (the CDC does not track adult deaths); the highest level of activity reported since the 2009 H1N1 pandemic.
The Florida Department of health reports this week that flu activity throughout the state is high and continues to increase.
Your concierge doctors, in Jupiter, Florida, at MD. 2.0 have become concerned about the various flu-related myths that have been spreading like a virus. Here’s a quick quiz on some of the facts and misconceptions many have about the flu.
- You can get the flu from the flu shot
False. You may get the flu even after you receive the shot because: (a) you became infected before you got the shot (it takes about two weeks to take effect); (b) you got a strain of influenza that wasn’t protected against in the shot; (c) the shot wasn’t effective for you. But studies have shown that even if you get the flu after getting the shot, the symptoms will likely be less severe.
- Pregnant women shouldn’t get it
False. The flu shot is not only safe for pregnant women, it may also confer a measure of immunity to the baby for several months after birth.
- If you’ve already had the flu, you don’t need a shot
False. There are several types of flu virus circulating, and you can still catch a type you haven’t already had. In addition, your immune system may be stressed from fighting off the first flu, so you may be more susceptible to attack from other viruses.
- You’re only contagious in the first 48 hours
False. People can catch the flu from you a full day before you are experiencing any symptoms, and for up to a week after your symptoms subside. If you have the flu, stay home and sleep alone. If someone in your home has the flu, change and wash their bedding frequently, and disinfect the phone, remote controls, and other surfaces after they touch them.
- You can catch flu from breathing
True. Yes, it’s important to wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, to use hand sanitizer when you can’t, and to avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth, the portals for the flu virus into your body. But it’s also the case that you can catch it simply from breathing the air from anyone within six feet of you who is sick. That’s why it’s vital that flu sufferers stay home.
- It’s not too late to get the flu shot
True. Since no one can say for sure when this current outbreak will end, you can obtain a measure of immunity within two weeks. Although the typical flu season normally ends by the February-March timeframe, it can last as long as May. The current flu shot is at least 30% effective, and we believe 30% coverage is better than none at all.
- Getting a second shot will boost your immunity.
False. The first shot will stimulate your immune system to fight off the virus. A second shot, which will contain the same strains as the first shot, will do nothing to boost your immunity further.
- The “stomach flu” is not really the flu
True. Except in children, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea-often called “stomach flu”-are not associated with influenza. Symptoms of the flu include: fever over 100.4 degrees; aching muscles; headache; a dry, persistent cough; chills and sweats; fatigue and weakness; and nasal congestion.
- Antibiotics will help once you get sick
False. Antibiotics may be used once you’ve contracted the flu and you experience a secondary bacterial infection such as pneumonia, but they are totally ineffective against a virus. Instead, we will prescribe an antiviral such as Tamiflu to relieve your symptoms.
If you are experiencing symptoms of the flu, especially if they seem to be growing worse, see your primary care doctor as soon as you can.