Flu Facts

Posted 02/12/2014 | By HealthCorps

You hear about this viral illness year after year, and yet it is so hard to separate fact from fiction.  So here are some tips that may help reduce your risk of getting the flu, help you to manage the flu, or at minimum reduce the symptoms and the risk of complications.  They also offer science-based information.

True or False: You can get the flu from the flu vaccine.

That is false.  Some people have an egg allergy and need to discuss the safest way to take the flu vaccine, since it is incubated in chicken eggs.   A newer version, the Flublok, does not use egg technology and is considered safe for everyone.  If you are harboring a virus when you get the flu vaccine, you may confuse escalating symptoms with the vaccine causing symptoms.  A small subset of the population will experience pain at the injection site and experience some non-descript symptoms for 24 to 48 hours after the injection.  But consider that 100,000 people die yearly of flu complications, and infants and young children, young adults and seniors, are especially at risk of developing complications.

True or False: You are only contagious to others when you have actual flu symptoms

False.  Most people actually spread germs a day before their symptoms begin.  And the flu can also be spread by air, through secretions that are expelled in a cough or sneeze.  Viruses can also live up to 8 hours on surfaces like door knobs, elevator buttons, and especially on all the tech devices we use.  That’s why hand-washing and not touching your mouth or eyes is so important during flu season.

True or False: If you don’t have a fever, you don’t have the flu

False.  Most people do experience fever for several days, a sore throat, dry cough and less commonly stomach symptoms.  But a small subset of the population can have variations of these symptoms, so check with your doctor if you have a lingering illness with some of these symptoms.

True or False: Having a negative rapid flu test means you don’t have the flu

False.  The flu viral load is typically more short-lived in adults than in children, so if you wait a week before finally getting a test, the results may miss picking up a significant flu titer.  Timing is everything when it comes to this particular test and valid results.

True or False: All flu vaccines contain the mercury-driven preservative, thimerosal.

False.  You can now request a thimerosal-free vaccine

True or False: The flu vaccine is 100% effective

False.  The flu vaccine is a combination of different yearly strains that researchers believe will most closely cover the flu that hits.  Last year, the coverage of the vaccine was deemed 56% effective overall in the general population, and 27% effective in seniors.  If you get vaccinated and then get the flu, the symptoms and duration of the illness may be markedly diminished because you took the vaccine.  And the vaccine will help to minimize possible complications.  New versions of the vaccine are also available for seniors, whose immune systems are less optimal.

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